But the AFL-CIO's opposition never was seen as a serious concern by senators or aides involved. They were confident that labor would not pull its support for a bill offering citizenship to millions over a provision affecting relatively few union workers.
Ana Avendano, assistant to the AFL-CIO president for immigration and community action, acknowledged that the union's strong support for a path to citizenship hampered its leverage on other issues.
"We have not veered from our commitment to the path to citizenship. But we are equally committed to other parts of this bill, and it makes our fight for our priorities more difficult," she said. "Tech was extremely fortunate that they found an ally on the committee that could open up a deal that had been sealed."
There was little opposition from other fronts. The companies that are the heaviest H-1B users â¿¿ and would therefore face the brunt of the restrictions under Hatch's proposals â¿¿ include technology companies based in India that have scant lobbying presence or constituency in Congress. An organization representing U.S. engineers and tech workers, IEEE-USA, has little clout compared with companies like Microsoft and Facebook.
As the Judiciary Committee began wading through amendments to the bill, Hatch was negotiating with Schumer over his amendments. Schumer wanted Hatch's vote for the bill without alienating Durbin.
Last Tuesday morning, the committee's final day working on the bill, word went out: There was a deal.
When the details emerged, Hatch had won much of what he wanted.
The unemployment rate would no longer be a factor in how high the H-1B visa cap could go up, as long as it was not 4.5 percent or above for the highly skilled professions in question. Only those companies most heavily dependent on H-1B visas would have to offer jobs to qualified U.S. citizens first, although the definition of an H-1B-dependent company was tweaked to make it slightly narrower. And the provision barring displacement of U.S. workers within 90 days was also limited in much the way Hatch sought.