We are happy to report that last night the Senate approved an amendment to the State/Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to increase the Peace Corps appropriation for Fiscal Year 2008 by $10 Million. This raises the Senate funding recommendation for Peace Corps to $333.5 Million - the same funding level approved earlier by the House of Representatives.
The Senate amendment was sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT; Dominican Republic 66-68) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). To offset the Peace Corps increase, the amendment included a recommendation suggested by the NPCA to reduce $10 Million in unobligated funds used for foreign military finance programs.
During floor discussion, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) indicated support for the increase in Peace Corps funding, but questioned the offset. He suggested to work on finding an alternative offset during the Senate/House conference to reconcile final legislation. The Dodd-Feinstein amendment was approved by voice vote. The entire State/Foreign Operations bill was approved last night by a vote of 81 - 12.
You can read the text of the brief floor discussion on the Peace Corps amendment (remarks by Senators Feinstein and Gregg) below.
SAY THANK YOU:
Please take a moment in the next few days to send thank you messages to the offices of Senators Dodd and Feinstein for their continued leadership in supporting the Peace Corps!
SENATE FLOOR DISCUSSION ON DODD-FEINSTEIN PEACE CORPS AMENDMENT:
ADDITIONAL PEACE CORPS FUNDING
Sec. 699B. (a) The amount appropriated or otherwise made available by title III under the heading ``PEACE CORPS'' is hereby increased by $10,000,000.
(b) The amount appropriated or otherwise made available by title IV under the heading ``FOREIGN MILITARY FINANCING PROGRAM'' is hereby reduced by $10,000,000.
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, this amendment by Senator Dodd and myself increases the funding for the Peace Corps by $10 million for a total of $333.5 million. This matches the President's request and the funding level in the House bill. The offset comes from unobligated foreign military financing funds.
The Peace Corps is one of our most effective and successful foreign aid programs. Since 1961, over 190,000 Americans, including 25,000 from my home State of California, have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 139 countries. Currently, there are 7,749 volunteers serving in 73 countries.
I am a big fan of the Peace Corps. They are diplomats, and they restore people's confidence in this country. The Peace Corps also provides critical education. In fact, approximately 20 percent of the Peace Corps volunteers today are serving in predominantly Muslim countries. And at a time when United States prestige is at an all-time low, Peace Corps volunteers provide a different face of America--one of compassion, one of care, and one of understanding. This amendment matches the President's request in the budget. It matches the funding level in the House. It is offset by unobligated balances. I urge that the amendment be adopted today.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.
Mr. GREGG. Mr. President, I am certainly in sympathy with the purposes of the amendment. The Peace Corps is an extraordinary organization filled with very dedicated and special people who give of their life, willing to go into the countryside in parts of this world and help people out, out of their concern for social well-being and the betterment of others. They are very admirable people. So I support the number. But the offset is an issue.
I have discussed this issue with Senator Dodd. I have not had a chance to discuss it with Senator Feinstein. Senator Dodd and I reached an understanding that we would try to find a better offset in conference.
With that understanding, I certainly have no objection to this amendment. I ask that it be approved.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there further debate? If not, the question is on agreeing to amendment No. 2721.
The amendment (No. 2721) was agreed to.