- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2003

The Senate yesterday overwhelmingly approved a spending bill to provide the beleaguered AmeriCorps agency with an extra $100 million, after defeating a Republican attempt to strip the money.

“It should not be on this emergency bill,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said about the AmeriCorps money, adding that it “is not an emergency.” Mr. Sessions tried to remove it, but his amendment was defeated 71-21.

The money is included in a supplemental spending bill that was attached to the legislative branch spending bill and passed in the Senate yesterday, 85-7. Mr. Bush requested the supplemental spending for disaster relief, but did not request the extra help for AmeriCorps.

The Clinton-era AmeriCorps program — which gives community volunteers an education stipend at the end of their service — has come under fire in recent years for mismanaging federal money. Last year, it had to temporarily suspend the application process after accepting too many volunteers.

AmeriCorps’ supporters yesterday said mistakes were made but that the program deserves the funding.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said there were “some extreme failures to comply with the law,” but that “the ones who volunteer are not the ones who made the mistake.” Mr. Bond heads the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees AmeriCorps.

The $100 million will allow AmeriCorps to accept 20,000 volunteers this fall, in addition to the 30,000 they are already planning to accept. The supplemental bill still needs to pass the House, where several Republicans oppose the additional funding.

“We shouldn’t reward an agency that violates federal law and mismanages taxpayer dollars by providing additional funding until clear and consistent reforms have been enacted,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, New York Republican and chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees AmeriCorps.

Mr. Walsh has been and continues to be a strong supporter of AmeriCorps, but said, “This action is necessary if true reform is to occur.”

The White House announced yesterday that the agency is getting a new management team. President Bush nominated David Eisner to be the chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that runs AmeriCorps and other volunteer organizations. Mr. Eisner most recently was vice president of corporate relations for AOL/TimeWarner.

Mr. Eisner — whose nomination must be approved by the Senate — will replace Leslie Lenkowsky, who announced yesterday he will leave CNCS to return to academia. The White House also selected James F. Manning to serve as chief operating officer, effective immediately.

After AmeriCorps realized it had accepted 70,000 volunteers when Congress had budgeted them for 50,000, Mr. Bond and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, worked closely with the General Accounting Office and CNCS to make management and procedural changes.

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