Congressional news

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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In his testimonies before two House and two Senate committees this week, Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the importance of U.S. engagement with the world, saying that “the United States cannot be strong at home if we are not strong in the world.”

Released this morning after a 10-week delay, the President’s FY14 budget request cuts State Department international exchange programs by nearly $40 million. The FY14 requested level for exchanges, $562.7 million, is a 6.6 per cent decrease from current FY13 funding of $602.5 million, and an 11 per cent decrease from the previous high water mark of $635 million in FY10. 

Congress passed a new continuing resolution (CR) last week that funds the government for the remainder of FY 2013, but does not address sequestration. Funding for Department of State exchange programs will remain unchanged for the final six months of the fiscal year.

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“I am a huge believer” in exchange programs, Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) proclaimed during a hearing of the House State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee last week. During the hearing, Rep. Granger recalled the positive interactions she has had with the two international exchange students her son is currently hosting in Texas. Granger’s expression of support for exchanges came in response to the testimony delivered by Dr. Dan Davidson, President of the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS regarding funding for Department of State exchanges in FY 2014.

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