Congressional news

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, 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.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued in an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post that even during this time of budget crisis, it is essential for the U.S. to engage with the world. “This is not time for America to pull back from the world. This is a time to step forward,” Kerry wrote.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced last week the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012-13, which authorizes $637.1 million for Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs in FY 2012, equal to the President’s request. The bill also includes an amendment to the Fulbright-Hays Act, requiring performance-based measurement reporting for high school exchange programs.

At the markup of its FY 2012 appropriations bill yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) provided $538 million for educational and cultural exchange programs. This funding level is $60.2 million below the current FY 2011 funding level of $598.2 million and $99.1 million below the President’s request of $637.1 million. It represents a 10 per cent cut from current funding and a return to FY 2009 levels.

Earlier today, the House Foreign Relations Committee marked up H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 2012.

H.R. 2583 would fund international and cultural exchange programs at $600 million, $37.1 million below the President's request for FY 2012, but slightly higher than the current level of $598.8 million.

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In a video recently published by the Department of State, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) speaks about the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, which Lugar and the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) instituted in an aftermath of 9/11 in 2002 because they felt "it was very important to get to know students in Muslim countries and for them to know us."

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