Congressional news

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We understand that a Senate floor battle is looming on foreign affairs spending.  The State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, in which exchanges are funded, is expected to come to the Senate floor in the next few days.  As you know, the Senate appropriation for Department of State exchange programs in FY 2012 ($612 million) is far higher than that of the House ($538 million). Successful amendments that strip funds from the bill will put Senate appropriators at a lower starting point in their negotiations with House appropriators in the final draft of the legislation.

Two key appropriations activities are happening in Washington right now:

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairs of the Senate Tourism Caucus, introduced on Tuesday a bill to boost U.S. tourism and “jolt” the U.S. economy, The Hill reported. The bill would speed up the wait for visas for international travelers to enter the United States, a move the senators said would “help the economy as growth and job creation stagnates.”

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed HR 2608, a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the federal government through November 18, CQ.com reported.

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Representative John Lewis (D-GA) introduced last week H.R. 3056, a bill "to authorize the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative focusing on peace and nonviolence in global conflict resolution, and for other purposes."

In a quick pro forma session last Thursday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government operating through tomorrow, October 4, CQ.com reported. The Senate had passed the bill by voice vote last Monday. 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee approved yesterday the FY 2012 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill. Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs received $612 million in this bill, $13.2 million above the FY 11 level and $25.1 million below the FY 12 President's request.

The Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds Department of State exchange programs, may mark up its FY 2012 appropriations bill starting next week, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition reports. NOW IS THE TIME to urge Congress—especially the Senate—to support the highest possible level of funding for international exchange programs.

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The Alliance issued the following statement in response to Sen. Mark Udall's (D-CO) recent letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, requesting a review of the Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program:

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posted on his website yesterday, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) noted that he is “concerned that the [Exchange Visitor] program lacks sufficient oversight of program sponsors and enforcement of the protections against abuse.” Udall asked Clinton to “provide an outline of the steps that the [State] Department has taken to ensure proper oversight and enforcement to protect against possible misuse of the visa program as it pertains to the protection of U.S. workers.”

Udall also wrote that his intention with this request is to work with the State Department “to maintain the true intent of the Exchange Visitor Program as an educational and cultural exchange that can serve as an important diplomatic tool while also protecting the interests of American workers.”

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