Congressional news

A proposed $30 million cut to the Fulbright Program would “rob the United States of one of its greatest, most lasting, and cheapest diplomacy bargains,” writes Rebecca Schuman in a recent column for Slate:

“Sometimes the soft power of cultural and educational exchange is more effective than official diplomacy, because it involves…a demonstrated interest in the host culture, full cultural immersion, and actual personal connection with localsIt’s for this reason that now is the absolute wrong time to cut the Fulbright program.”

“As tensions escalate with countries that were once touchy allies, what we need are more Fulbright grantees in the world, not fewer.”

While the President’s proposed FY15 budget, released earlier this month, requests a 1.6 per cent increase (to $577.9 million) for all Department of State international exchange programs, it also includes a concerning 13 per cent cut for the Fulbright program, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill this week that would deny foreign travelers U.S. visas if their home countries have not made sufficient efforts to prevent fraudulent passport use, CQ.com reports:

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Testifying on the Obama Administration’s FY15 budget request before Congress this week, Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the immense return on investment the American people are getting for their comparatively small investment in U.S. foreign policy, and specifically mentioned the positive impact of international exchanges.

Said Kerry in his testimony:

The optional practical training program (OPT), which allows international graduates in the United States on student visas to gain work experience related to their fields of study, lacks sufficient risk assessment and governmental oversight, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Department of State international exchange programs are funded at $577.9 million in the President’s FY 2015 budget request, released today by the Obama administration. This request for exchanges marks an increase of $9.2 million, or 1.6 per cent, over the current FY14 funding level of $568.6 million.

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With a 90-8 vote, the Senate yesterday confirmed Richard Stengel as new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Politico reports.

The Senate on Thursday cleared and sent to the President’s desk the omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY14 unveiled by lawmakers earlier this week and passed by the House on Wednesday, CQ.com reports.

Department of State exchange programs are funded at $568.628 in the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill [the Alliance reported].

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Lawmakers completed yesterday an omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY14 that funds State Department exchange programs at $568.628 million – $560 million in base funds and $8.628 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The exchanges allocation is slightly higher than President Obama’s FY14 request of $562.7 million. Here’s how the allocation figures into the full and complicated picture of the past year and a half:

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The Senate passed the FY14 and FY15 budget agreement negotiated by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday, following the House’s passage of the bill last week. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), President Obama is expected to sign the budget measure into law today.

Passage of the budget agreement now allows House and Senate appropriators to work on their final FY 14 budget allocations before the Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the federal government expires on January 15.

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