Congressional news

As Congress begins its five-week August recess today, the FY15 appropriations process appears to have stalled until after the November elections. A continuing resolution (CR) is very likely to be enacted to keep the federal government funded past September 30 [the Alliance reported].

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With appropriations work in the Senate stalled, and the House also unlikely to complete its outstanding appropriations bills, a continuing resolution (CR) for FY15 appears very likely for the fall, CQ.com reports. It also appears increasingly likely that Congress will use an omnibus appropriations bill to wrap up its FY15 funding work following the November midterm elections.

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The full House Appropriations Committee marked-up its FY15 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill this morning, reflecting what was included in the bill text marked up by the SFOPS subcommittee last week: a flat overall funding level for exchanges, and funding levels for the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and Citizen Exchanges that are increases over FY14 levels, as opposed to President Oba

Both the House and the Senate proposed strong FY15 funding levels for Department of State international exchange programs this week.

Yesterday, the Senate proposed $590.77 million for State exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is a $22 million (or 3.9 per cent) increase over the current FY14 level and $12.87 million over the President’s FY15 request of $577.9 million.

On Tuesday, the House proposed $568.628 million for State exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is the same as the current FY14 level and $9.27 million below the President’s FY15 request. 

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The Senate State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed $590.77 million for Department of State international exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is a $22 million (or 3.9 per cent) increase over both the current FY14 level and the House FY15 proposed level (released on Tuesday), and $12.87 million over the President’s FY15 request.

The House State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations subcommittee released their FY15 spending bill yesterday evening, in advance of the subcommittee mark-up this evening. Department of State educational and cultural exchanges are funded at $568.628 million – flat funding at the FY14 enacted level.

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The Senate’s FY15 budget allocation for State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) programs, released this week, is not only slightly lower than the House’s allocation, but also includes a seven per cent cut in base funding from current levels, USGLC reports.

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The Fulbright Program is “a fundamental piece of America’s higher education infrastructure,” writes Jarrod Hayes in the Washington Post, providing “a critical opportunity for our collective braintrust to build the intellectual capital upon which our society relies”:

“The Fulbright scholars program is…central to everything colleges and universities do for our society. It supports faculty from all over the U.S.—red states, blue states, and states in between—to travel abroad in an effort to build connections with other societies and bring those connections and experiences home to their students and communities. It also brings the world into the classrooms of our children by funding the research and teaching of scholars from other societies visiting American colleges and universities.”

“In very many ways, the Fulbright program embodies the United States: an ambitious, diverse, globally connected program aimed at moving forward and at the forefront of taking on the difficult challenges that our societies and the world faces. And so preserving the Fulbright program is in a sense preserving who we are as Americans in the 21st century.”

A proposed $30 million cut to the Fulbright Program would “rob the United States of one of its greatest, most lasting, and cheapest diplomacy bargains,” writes Rebecca Schuman in a recent column for Slate:

“Sometimes the soft power of cultural and educational exchange is more effective than official diplomacy, because it involves…a demonstrated interest in the host culture, full cultural immersion, and actual personal connection with localsIt’s for this reason that now is the absolute wrong time to cut the Fulbright program.”

“As tensions escalate with countries that were once touchy allies, what we need are more Fulbright grantees in the world, not fewer.”

While the President’s proposed FY15 budget, released earlier this month, requests a 1.6 per cent increase (to $577.9 million) for all Department of State international exchange programs, it also includes a concerning 13 per cent cut for the Fulbright program, Inside Higher Ed reports.

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