This was a vote on am amendment offered by Rep. Stearns (R-FL) to the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funds for the State Department and its foreign operations. The amendment would have reduced the amount appropriated to The Peace Corps by $76,560,000 to match the President's request of $373,440,000. In fiscal year 2009, the Peace Corps was funded at $340 million. President Obama had requested $373.4 million, an increase of $33 million or approximately 10%. H.R. 3081 had Peace Crops funding of $450 million, or $77 million more than what President Obama had requested, and $110 million above the FY 2009 level.
Rep. Stearns said in his statement in support of the amendment that he supported the Peace Corps. He also said that he agreed with President Obama that its mission could be accomplished in fiscal year 2010 for $373 million. Stearns then argued that, “with the (U.S.) economy the way it is we should keep the money in America and not in 76 other countries. Certainly the money that we are spending overseas could be used in this country.” He also repeated the argument that Republicans had been making throughout the consideration of appropriation bills that “we are spending Federal tax dollars at a rate we can't sustain, and we are putting ourselves into deeper debt.”
Rep. Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3081, opposed the amendment. She said the Peace Corps is one “America's most effective tools in directly reaching citizens of other countries, demonstrating firsthand the best of American values and generating goodwill for our Nation around the world.” Lowey noted that, in 2008, “Peace Corps volunteers helped train 148,000 teachers, health care workers and other professionals overseas. Their efforts improved the lives of over 2 million people in developing countries, including countries that are vital to our national security interests.”
Lowey defended the significant funding increases by arguing that “(I)n recent years (under the Bush Administration), the Peace Corps has been chronically underfunded. Last year the agency was forced to cut 500 new positions. Funding the Peace Corps at the $450 million level lays the groundwork to fulfill the President's pledge to increase the number of Peace Corps volunteers at a responsible pace. In addition, the bill calls for the Government Accountability Office to conduct a management review to ensure that every dollar is well spent and every volunteer's effort is well placed.” Lowey also argued that the Peace Corps is “a job-creation program for our young people.” Rep. Stearns responded to Lowey’s last point by claiming: “(I)t is cheaper to give a job to a student, a college graduate, here in the United States than to send them oversees into all these 76-100 countries that we have allocated it for. It's also cheaper logistically.”
The vote on the amendment was 172-259. One hundred and fifty-nine Republicans and thirteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-two Democrats and seventeen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the amendment was defeated and no reduction was made in the funding for the Peach Corps in the 2010 fiscal year appropriation for the State Department.