Communications Intern posted an articleJohn Garamendi, only returned Volunteer in Congress, is introducing Peace Corps legislation see more
The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Now there’s only one. And he is working on new legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps.
By Jonathan Pearson
Photo: John Garamendi
The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Since 1975, at least two returned Volunteers served simultaneously in the halls of Congress. Until now.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, was reelected with a relatively comfortable victory, securing 58 percent of the vote in California’s Third District. But he’s the sole RPCV to return.
Donna Shalala (D-FL), who served as a Volunteer in Iran 1962–64, lost her bid for reelection, one of 14 incumbents to do so.
Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who served as a Volunteer in Dominican Republic 2004–06 and in the House since 2012, lost a primary bid for U.S. Senate. His departure marks the end of another era: Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress, with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great-uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.
Garamendi is Updating the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act
Congressman Garamendi is in the process of updating and reintroducing comprehensive legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. He introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.3456), with bipartisan support, in the last session of Congress.
In introducing the bill, Garamendi said, “My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It inspired a lifetime of service that began in Ethiopia during the late 1960s and continued into state government in California, the Clinton Administration, and now the U.S. Congress. Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps’ mission and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place. Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and I thank my fellow Peace Corps Caucus co-chairs and Congressional colleagues for their support as original cosponsors.”
That bill did not come to a vote. Read more about it here.
The evacuation of all Volunteers from posts around the world in March 2020 has changed the landscape for Peace Corps. And as the community-driven report Peace Corps Connect to the Future stakes out, this is a time to retool and reshape the agency. The report contains recommendations for Congress, the Executive Branch and the agency, as well as the wider Peace Corps community. Garamendi and others have been briefed on those recommendations.
Here are more legislative updates regarding the Peace Corps community.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleWe are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award. see more
We are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award are Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Patrick Leahy, Representative Ted Poe and Representative Joe Kennedy. As Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively, on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Graham and Senator Leahy have worked to ensure that the Peace Corps has the funding it needs. Representative Poe and Representative Kennedy have taken up the critical task of improving the health, safety and security of currently-serving and returned Volunteers. The awards will be presented by former Representative Sam Farr during NPCA’s Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1st.
Despite the Administration proposing the largest decrease to the Peace Corps agency in over 40 years, Senator Graham (R-SC) and Senator Leahy (D-VT) have protected the agency from significant budget cuts in the Senate. Both Senators have been vocal champions of America’s development and diplomacy programs—commonly referred to as soft power. Senator Graham regularly brought the case for these vital programs to America’s living rooms. "Investing in tools and organizations that promote soft power pays dividends for the U.S. military and our national security in the long run'" Senator Graham said. "We continue to face growing threats around the globe, but I am committed to ensuring adequate funding for diplomacy and development. Whether it’s through volunteering, encouraging global partnerships or high-level diplomacy, soft power is invaluable to the security and safety of our nation.”
Senator Leahy has not only made the case in the press, but he has also visited Volunteers in the field and hosted numerous promotional events on Capitol Hill and in Vermont. "President Kennedy’s vision of the Peace Corps is at least as relevant today as it was when he established it in 1961,” Senator Leahy shared. “Countless Americans have served in ways that have brought the best face of our country to foreign lands. Vermonters have led the way, time after time sending the highest number of volunteers per capita."
Representative Poe (R-TX-02) and Representative Kennedy (D-MA-04) have sought to improve the health, safety and security of currently-serving and returned Volunteers through legislation they reintroduced at the beginning of this legislative calendar. H.R. 2259, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement, will make improvements in the areas of overseas medical personnel, agency support for returned Volunteers and victims of sexual assault and violence, policies and procedures for anti-malarials, worker’s compensation benefits, and reauthorization of key provisions of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act.
Representative Poe, who also introduced the Kate Puzey Act, has long fought for agency reform in his position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and refers to Volunteers as “Angels Abroad.” Representative Poe believes, “Peace Corps volunteers exemplify what it means to be an American citizen, and I am proud to support our angels abroad. The Peace Corps embodies the values of hope and compassion, which is something we desperately need more of in our world today."
Representative Kennedy is a Dominican Republic RPCV and is co-chair of the Peace Corps Caucus. He introduced the Peace Corps Commemorative Act in 2013, the first piece of legislation he passed as a lawmaker. “In every corner of our globe, Peace Corps volunteers woke up this morning, embraced unfamiliar communities, and worked from sun up to sun down to export our values and change lives,” stated Representative Kennedy. “Congressman Sam Farr is not just an inspiring public servant and dear friend, he is the embodiment of the Peace Corps ideals we all share.”
The award is named in honor of Sam Farr, RPCV Colombia, who represented California’s 17th and 20th districts from 1993 to 2017. Known to his colleagues as “Mr. Peace Corps” for decades, Farr was among the Peace Corps’ greatest champions to serve on Capitol Hill.
Register to join us for our Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1 to meet with Members of Congress and celebrate our award winners.