Congressional news

The House Appropriations committee today approved by a 28-21 vote its FY 13 allocations for the 12 appropriations bills, CQ.com reports. State-Foreign Operations, which includes Department of State exchange programs, would be funded at $48.3 billion, consisting of $40.1 billion in base funding and $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

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At the markup of the 302(b) allocations for FY13, the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved an allocation of $53 billion for State-Foreign Operations, which includes Department of State exchange programs. This allocation consists of $49.8 billion in base funding and $3.2 billion in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

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Public diplomacy programs, including exchanges, are “a critical and indispensible component” of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. relations with China, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) stated at a recent hearing examining “The Price of Public Diplomacy with China.”

During his opening remarks at this gathering of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Rep. Carnahan said:

On Alliance Advocacy Day, Nancy Neill, vice president of the Fulbright Association, walked into the office of Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), armed with her status as a constituent and an Alliance position paper on maintaining robust funding for State Department exchanges. She walked out with something else: a commitment from Rep. Johnson’s office to lead a Congressional sign-on letter supporting exchange funding.

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced the 2012 Congress Bundestag/Bundesrat exchange, “an annual exchange program for staff members from both countries” that “gives professional staff the opportunity to observe and learn about each other’s political institutions and interact on issues of mutual interest.”

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Despite attempts by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to reauthorize the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, the 64-year old, seven-member governmental advisory body died a “quiet death” in December after it did not win reauthorization from Congress, Government Executive reports.

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Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs received $598.8 million for FY 2012 in the “megabus” spending package passed by Congress on Friday and Saturday. This funding level is exactly even with the final FY 2011 appropriation for exchanges, and falls $38.9 million below the President’s FY12 request.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) yesterday introduced a draft bill that would make it easier for international graduates in high-demand fields to remain in the U.S. and would offer temporary student visas to young illegal immigrants enrolling in college, CQ.com reports.

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Tara Sonenshine, nominee for the role of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, stressed the value of people-to-people exchanges in U.S. public diplomacy during her confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sonenshine said:

While Congress passed the first of its overdue FY 2012 appropriations bills in the form of a three-bill “minibus” (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD), it seems unlikely to do the same with the remaining nine bills. Thus, Congress is likely to wrap the remaining funding measures, including the State-Foreign Operations bill (which funds Department of State exchanges), into one “bulky” omnibus package, CQ.com reports.

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