The House Appropriations Committee on Friday fought back an effort to withhold all money for AmeriCorps programs pending an investigation into the firing of the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), but did not restore the $90 million previously cut from the corporation's 2010 proposed budget.
Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) announced last week that he was trimming $90 million from the CNCS budget, including $15 million from the proposed $50 million social innovations programs, noting that the "subcommittee will consider further expansion of service and volunteer programs once the Corporation for National and Community Service has demonstrated that it has made improvements in its internal operations."
There have been repeated questions about whether CNCS has sufficient infrastructure to grow AmeriCorps to the planned 250,000 by 2017 from the current 75,000 members.
Obey said the amendment to withhold all funds was "overkill" in an attempt to find out the real reason behind the abrupt firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin on June 11, and why the Obama administration did not conform with procedures in the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act. The act requires a 30-day notice to Congress, complete with the reason for the firing. The vote on the measure was 22-37.
Despite his opposition to the amendment, Obey has signaled his support for inspectors general, noting in his statement that "this bill fully funds each of the inspectors general to enable them to effectively carry out their audit and oversight responsibilities for the agencies included in the bill."
The legislation approved by the full committee gives CNCS $1.059 billion - a $169 million increase over this year, but less than the $1.149 billion proposed by President Barack Obama.
A number of service organizations - including Voices for National Service, Service Nation and America Forward - have launched e-mail campaigns to lobby senators to restore funding cut by the committee. The House is expected to consider the CNCS appropriations bill next week, and the Senate hearings on the appropriations are set for the following week.
The full committee, in its markup of bills covering the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and independent agencies, also turned back an amendment to that would have eliminated the Senior Community Service Corps and one that would have continued funding for abstinence education programs.
Rep. Stephen C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) moved to kill the Senior Community Service Corps, saying that it was duplicative of other CNCS programs for seniors. But Obey argued that the senior corps "gives meaningful employment for senior citizens" who train younger generations in areas from forest conversation to tutoring.