H.R. 4653, To reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

H.R. 4653

To reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Sponsor
Rep. Frank Wolf

Date
July 8, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4653, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2014, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4653 was introduced on May 9, 2014 by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  The bill was marked up on June 26, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4653 extends by five years, through September 30, 2019, the expiring authority for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) at the current level of $3 million per year that was established by the 2011 reauthorization act (P.L. 112-75, which represented a cut of approximately one-third below FY2010 levels).

In addition, H.R. 4653 provides that USCIRF is an independent federal government advisory body required to possess expertise on faiths practiced around the world.  The bill requires that USCIRF vacancies be filled within 90 days.  H.R. 4653 includes USCIRF in developing training material for Foreign Service Officers on international religious freedom and human rights.  The bill specifies that USCIRF employment and compensation decisions should be made by voting Commissioners; encourages the Department of State to allow Commissioners and USCIRF staff with appropriate security clearances to access classified information; and provides that USCIRF may host educational intern, fellowship, and volunteer programs.

Background

USCIRF was created by Congress in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.[1]  “Established as an independent, bipartisan, federal government entity, USCIRF monitors the status of freedom of religion or belief abroad and provides policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.”[2]  USCIRF is comprised of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (a non-voting member of USCIRF) and nine volunteer Commissioners.[3]  Three Commissioners are appointed by the President, three by Republican and Democrat leaders in the House, and three by Republican and Democrat leaders in the Senate.[4]  USCIRF presents its findings and recommendations in a formal report each year.[5]

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[1] U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Frequently Asked Questions.
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] See, e.g., United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report 2014.

Cost

According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 4653 would cost $15 million from 2015-2019.  The bill would not have a significant impact on direct spending and would not affect revenues.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.