House Votes to Expand the Peace Corps; Budget Increase Would Return Number of Volunteers to 1960s Levels
March 3, 1999Washington, D.C., March 3, 1999—The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today to expand the number of Peace Corps volunteers by nearly 50 percent, which would allow the agency to send the most volunteers overseas since the 1960s.
The 326-90 vote today to authorize an increase in the Peace Corps budget over the next four years would boost the number of volunteers from 6,700 today to more than 10,000 in the year 2003, the highest level since the late 1960s. If enacted into law, this would be the first time the Peace Corps has ever been authorized for a four-year budget cycle. "We're pleased by the strong, bi-partisan vote, which demonstrates once again that the popularity and success of the Peace Corps is a testament to the power of an idea that transcends both politics and partisanship," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. "With thousands more volunteers serving overseas, the Peace Corps can do more to help communities around the world gain access to clean water; help prevent the spread of AIDS; teach English, math and science; help entrepreneurs start new businesses; and work with non-governmental organizations to protect the environment." Last year, President Clinton endorsed the goal of 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers, which Congress first formally approved in 1985. Senators Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate authorizing subcommittee, will introduce a companion measure in the next few weeks. More than 30 representatives, including all five former Peace Corps volunteers in the House, co-sponsored the bill. They are: Republicans James Walsh of New York, Thomas Petri of Wisconsin and Christopher Shays of Connecticut; and Democrats Tony Hall of Ohio and Sam Farr of California. During today's debate on the House floor, six members spoke in favor of the bill; no one spoke out against it. Supporters were, in order: Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., the ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee; Tom Campbell, R-Calif.; Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., whose son is now a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal; Douglas Bereuter, R-Neb.; and Walsh, who served as a volunteer in Nepal from 1970-72. In October, Congress approved an 8 percent budget increase for the Peace Corps, for a total of $241 million, which will enable the agency to field 7,400 volunteers by the end of this fiscal year, the most in 25 years.