Thursday, May 28, 2009

MorePeaceCorps: Not a Moment to Waste!

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MorePeaceCorps - Newletter #16

Not a Moment to Waste: Foreign Operations Appropriations Mark-Up Thursday, June 11

Last week, we took a big first step towards a bold new Peace Corps.  Congressman Howard Berman, showing tremendous political courage, tossed out the Administration's request for a 10% increase ($34 million) for the Peace Corps and substituted a 35% increase ($120 million) for 2010.  This is the authorization level in Congressman Sam Farr's (Colombia 64-66) Bill which now has 120 co-sponsors.  Our strategy is working. 

If your representative is not a co-sponsor of Mr. Farr's Bill, please go to our website and use our sample letter to contact your representative to sign on as a co-sponsor.  Every new House co-sponsor is a signal of growing support. 

Now comes the hard part: winning the appropriations struggle.  On Thursday, June 11, the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up its budget for 2010.  The appropriations subcommittee, true to its name, decides on the amount of money in the bill.  This subcommittee is chaired by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-18) and without her support we will struggle to keep the $450 million appropriation recommended by the House Foreign Relations Committee.   If you are a constituent of Chairwoman Lowey's, please take action.

In the past, it is in the Appropriations Committee where recommendations for increased funding are whittled down.  This is where authorization bills, such as Mr. Farr's get taken out, and lower amounts of money are substituted.  However, this year is different.  First, Mr. Berman is a senior member and his endorsement of Mr. Farr's request is powerful.  Second, in the past, there has been no way to mobilize the grassroots base of RPCVs.   Now we have thousands of supporters around the nation who care about this issue and are educated on the process.  We have two weeks before the vote.   If you are a constituent of any of these 14 members of Congress that sit on the subcommittee, please try to visit them in their district office or at least call and urge your representative to become a co-sponsor.  Here is a copy of the sample letter to use with the 14 House subcommittee appropriators:

Dear Representative    ,

I am writing to you from ______ to request you, in your role as a member of the Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee, to support $450 million in the FY 2010 budget for the Peace Corps.  A bill introduced by Congressman Sam Farr (Colombia 64-66), the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009 also authorizes this funding increase and now has 120 co-sponsors.  Moreover, the Foreign Affairs Committee led by Representative Howard Berman recently authorized this robust increase in HR 2410.  We need your leadership in providing major resources to build a bold new Peace Corps for a new century at a time when 25 countries including Indonesia and Sierra Leone have made requests for new Peace Corps programs.  

Peace Corps currently enters into service 3,600 volunteers per year, making it half the size it was in 1966. It is a valuable but small entity compared to President Kennedy's original vision of 100,000 Americans serving in the huts and villages of the world.  Peace Corps can rejuvenate itself by entering boldly into countries where person-to person contact is important in our own hemisphere; Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti and Bolivia. There are also many opportunities for Americans to volunteer to serve in communities where the Islamic faith pre-dominates.  Examples include, expanding the Morocco program; newly enter Libya, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the non-conflicted parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan even India.  All of these would bring a new face of America to young people in the Islamic world and America would gain new understanding of areas and communities critical to the United States and world peace.

The Peace Corps had a profound impact on my life and US community.  I served in _______________.

I hope you share my view that the Peace Corps is a vital component of our public diplomacy toolbox.  Since 1961, nearly 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have provided meaningful, small-scale development assistance, reversing stereotypes about Americans and returning stateside to enrich communities domestically with new language and other skills.  Peace Corps continues to be one of America's finest expressions of friendship and solidarity across the globe.

The Obama-Biden Administration is working diligently to reinvigorate our foreign policy and burnish America's image. To do this, we must maximize every element of soft power. Investing in Peace Corps in the manner outlined in HR 1066 and the White House transition report would help to reestablish our credibility and moral standing abroad, while exposing people to the core American values of peace, progress, tolerance and prosperity.  To meet the President's stated goal of 16,000 volunteers in the Peace Corps we need your leadership at the June 11 mark-up of the Foreign Operations Bill.

I appreciate the support you have provided to the Peace Corps in the past and welcome your full support in the subcommittee this year.



The All-Important House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Nita M. Lowey (NY) (Chair)
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Adam Schiff (CA)
Steve Israel (NY)
Ben Chandler (KY)
Steven R. Rothman (NJ)
Barbara Lee (CA)
Betty McCollum (MN)
David R. Obey (WI), Ex Officio

Kay Granger (TX) (Ranking Member)
Mark Steven Kirk (IL)
Ander Crenshaw (FL)
Dennis R. Rehberg (MT)
Jerry Lewis (CA), Ex Officio

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