Congressional news

President Obama nominated yesterday Richard Stengel, Managing Editor of Time magazine, to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, according to a White House press announcement.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government at current levels through December 15. This CR (H.J. Res. 59) would set government spending at an annual rate of about $986, slightly below the current FY13 level of $988 billion. Opposition from conservative House Republicans, however, has forced the House leadership to pull the bill from floor consideration.

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The House of Representatives is likely to take up a short-term, stopgap funding measure (a continuing resolution, or CR) next week, reports. Such a measure would avert a government shutdown at the end of this month and is not expected to last more than two to three months. CQ notes that the CR would likely continue discretionary spending into fiscal 2014, which begins on October 1, at current levels: 

Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was sworn in as the newest member of the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board last week, according to an announcement by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the Department of State.

A Fulbright alumna herself, Rep. Giffords is deeply appreciative of her Board nomination:

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In a Senate confirmation hearing this afternoon (July 30), Evan Ryan, President Obama’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), said that exchanges “capitalize on American strengths and appeals,” and that ECA is “the lifeblood of public diplomacy”.

Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ryan underlined the powerful role people-to-people exchanges play in advancing U.S. public diplomacy and foreign policy goals.

House and Senate Appropriations committees this week approved their respective bills for FY14 State Department funding, including Department of State exchange programs.

The difference between the House and Senate allocation is stark: approximately $156 million.

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Following a meeting with this year’s participants of the U.S. Congress-Korean National Assembly Youth Exchange Program yesterday, the program’s congressional sponsor, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), praised the important role U.S.-South Korea people-to-people exchanges play in fostering better understanding between the two countries.

In a statement on his website, Senator Kirk writes:

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The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved the 302(b) allocations for fiscal year 2014, providing $50.6 billion for FY14 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS), and $52.2 billion for the overall International Affairs Budget (essentially level with current funding and similar to the President’s FY 14 request of $52.1), the U.S.

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According to a draft schedule currently being circulated by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel is planning to mark up eight out of its twelve appropriations bills by mid-July, recently reported.

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Heading back to work after the Memorial Day recess, Congress will begin soon to consider a number of its appropriations bills. As reports, the key issue facing the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill (in which State Department exchange programs are funded) will be closing the gap between what the Senate wants (“to meet the White House’s request”) and what the House wants (“to cut deeply into the budget”).

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