Congressional news

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, 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, 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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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) yesterday approved by voice vote President Obama’s nomination of Richard Stengel to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Stengel, the former managing editor of Time magazine, is now awaiting confirmation by the full Senate.

The recent elimination of the Title VIII program, a federal grants program that supports research on Russia as well as language study, could potentially cause significant harm to Russian studies, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, citing the concerns of scholars in the field.

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