Honor the Peace Corps: 50th Anniversary Advocacy Day
NPCA would like to thank the over 500 advocates who joined us on Capitol Hill on September 22, 2011. Following our Advocacy Day, more than 60 lawmakers co-sponsored Peace Corps legislation, inlcuding 14 lawmakers who had never supported previous Peace Corps actions!
The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act now awaits the President’s signature to be signed into law, in part because the bill received a 33% increase in co-sponsors following our Advocacy Day.
September 22, 1961 marked an historic moment in Peace Corps history. That’s the day when President Kennedy signed the Peace Corps Act into law. Congressional approval of the Peace Corps Act fully established the program, which had begun earlier in the year with the signing of an Executive Order.
Fifty years later – September 22, 2011 – hundreds of people who have been inspired by the Peace Corps convened on Capitol Hill to meet with their lawmakers and urge them to honor the past, present and future of the Peace Corps.
Couldn’t come to advocacy day? No problem. You can help in a big way! We simply need you to set aside five to ten minutes of your day and commit to making a phone call or writing an email your Senators and House Rep. Your action from home will further reinforce the message our Hill advocates brought to the Capitol.
Issue One: Honor Peace Corps’ Past
Co-Sponsor and Pass Peace Corps Commemorative Legislation (S. 1421; H.R. 854)
Washington DC is not just a place to live, work and perform the tasks of government. It is a national and world capital designed to record, narrate and honor the evolving American story. Here is where American citizens and visitors from around the globe can learn about people and events that shape the nation and define who we are.
The founding of the Peace Corps in 1961, and the ideals it represents, is a defining chapter in America’s never-ending story. This moment in our history is deserving of a commemorative work, to be erected near the National Mall. Legislation introduced by RPCV Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) are demonstrative of the bi-partisan support in moving this proposal from concept to reality. As this legislation specifically states that no taxpayer dollars will be used for this project, there is no fiscal impact on our national budget.
- The 50th anniversary year is the moment to advance a Peace Corps commemorative. The first step is that Congress needs to pass legislation to allow this proposal to move forward.
- If your lawmakers are not yet co-sponsors of S. 1421 and H.R. 854, ask them to become a co-sponsor.
- If they already are a co-sponsor, thank them for their leadership and urge them to work to pass this bi-partisan legislation in Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary year.
Where Things Stand:
- In the House of Representatives, the legislation has been introduced and has strong support with well over 100 co-sponsors. The bill awaits consideration before the Natural Resources Committee.
- Last year, similar legislation received unanimous approval before the Committee, and was also unanimously approved by the entire House of Representatives.
- In the Senate, the legislation was recently passed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is now headed to the Senate Floor. No bill was introduced in the Senate last year.
Resources To Help You Prepare:
- Read the legislation: S. 1421 and its co-sponsors; H.R. 854 and its co-sponsors.
- Read a one page summary of H.R. 854 prepared by the Peace Corps. Commemorative Foundation (Note: the same talking points apply to the Senate bill).
- Read the excellent 2011 testimony of RPCV Roger Lewis which provides further background information.
- Read the statements of several leading historians on the historic significance of the founding of the Peace Corps.
Issue Two: Honor Peace Corps’ Present
Thank your Representative for passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 (S. 1280)
The Peace Corps community suffered a blow earlier in this 50th anniversary year with news reports and congressional testimony revealing that while volunteers face the threat of serious violence, the response and support that volunteers receive – in too many instances – falls far short.
- Praise the efforts to date to address this issue and to pass the Kate Puzey bill.
Where Things Stand:
- On November 1st, The House of Representatives unanimously approved the Senate version of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act (S.1280) by a vote of 406 to zero. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the legislation which passed unanimously in the Senate on September 26th.
- The legislation now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law.
Resources to Help You Prepare:
- Read the Legislation: S. 1280 (as amended)
- Peace Corps Resource Page
- National Peace Corps Association Resource Page
- Leading Victims Organizations: First Response Action and Kate’s Voice
Issue Three: Honor Peace Corps’ Future
Support Strong Funding for the Peace Corps as it Begins the Next 50 Years of Service to Our Nation and Our World
As Congress returns to Washington in September, virtually all attention is expected to center on the work of a specially appointed bi-partisan/bi-cameral twelve member Committee charged with trying to reach agreement on a path forward to address the national debt. This comes amid sharp divisions on how to move forward, with many calling for deep reductions in federal spending.
Peace Corps has not been spared in this debate. Earlier this year when Congress came to final agreement for the current Fiscal Year 2011 budget, Peace Corps saw its budget reduced by 6.5%, from $400 million down to $374 million.
Congress is now considering spending for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins October 1st. In his budget request to Congress, President Obama requested $440 million for the Peace Corps for Fiscal Year 2012.
The success of the Peace Corps community and congressional champions in the recent past provided some very tangible results. One thousand additional volunteers in the field, the return of Peace Corps programs in Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Colombia, and an increase in the volunteer readjustment allowance, are among the steps forward. While the initial work on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for Peace Corps is generally positive, there is a long way to go and much advocacy remains.
- In considering funding cuts to federal programs, an exception should be made for the Peace Corps, because Peace Corps is an exceptional program. We must continue to provide strong funding to support the Peace Corps.
- This is especially the case given the relatively insignificant amount of funding provided for the Peace Corps, and the tremendous contributions Peace Corps Volunteers and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers make to our country and the world. One example of how little we spend on Peace Corps: If you add up every dollar spent on Peace Corps over the past 50 years, the cost is less than one day of our current federal budget.
Where Things Stand:
Although developments may be fast-changing and fluid during September, here is what we can tell you.:
- In the current fiscal Year (Fiscal Year 2011), Peace Corps experienced a 6.5% decrease in its funding, from $400 million down to $374 million.
- In the House of Representatives, the Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations supported no further cuts to Peace Corps funding. This was significant considering they were dealing with an overall budget that was 18% below the funding levels of the past two years.
- The next anticipated House action for Peace Corps and other State/Foreign Operations funding is the full Appropriations Committee.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet taken action on the State/Foreign Operations budget.
Resources to Help You Prepare:
- Summary Paper: Read our summary paper with key facts, quotes and other information.