Congressional news

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, CQ.com 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 CQ.com 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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The bipartisan House “Gang of 8” emerged from a meeting last night signaling that they again have come to a tentative agreement on a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, CQ.com reports.

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The House Appropriations Committee has released and begun to take up its FY14 subcommittee allocations. The Committee plans to mark-up a few appropriations bills at the end of May and beginning of June, including the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Defense, and Agriculture bills. No specific timeframe has been announced for other bills, though our colleagues at Sixkiller Consulting note that the State-Foreign Operations bill will likely be marked up in the House in mid-to-late June. 

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In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sent in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings and in light of the immigration reform debate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voices concerns about “flaws” in the current immigration and refugee systems and notes that the Senate should not move forward with the immigration reform “until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system.”

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