Congressional news

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is expected to unveil legislation this week to address “demands from high-tech companies for a relaxation of restrictions on foreign graduate students and technicians,” reports (subscribers only). Cornyn’s bill may draw from several bi-partisan measures that have already been proposed:

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The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee funded educational and cultural exchange programs at $586.957 million for FY 2013, exactly even with the President’s FY13 request and approximately 2 per cent below the final FY 2012 appropriation for exchanges of $598.8 million.

The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee (which funds State Department exchange programs) will consider funding for FY 2013 as early as next week, with the Senate subcommittee to follow soon after. While the Senate has proposed nearly level funding for international affairs programs, the House is threatening to cut them by 9.4 per cent.

We need to generate as many letters from constituents as possible, asking your members of Congress to support level funding for Department of State exchange programs at $598.8 million in FY 13.

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The House Appropriations committee today approved by a 28-21 vote its FY 13 allocations for the 12 appropriations bills, 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.

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