Thursday, December 08, 2011

USCIRF Takes Formal Steps To Prepare To Close Down

As previously reported, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is now scheduled to go out of business on Dec. 16.  Under Sec. 209 of the International Religious Freedom Act, the Commission was originally scheduled to terminate on Sept. 30. However two continuing resolutions have temporarily extended its life while a House-passed 2-year re-authorization bill (HR 2867) has been awaiting passage in the Senate. However the Senate has not acted, apparently because of a "hold" placed on the bill by Senate majority whip, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).  According to a report last month in CQ Weekly, the hold stems from a dispute over an entirely unrelated matter.  Durbin wants Congress to appropriate funds for the federal government to buy up an unused maximum-security prison in his district in Illinois and turn it into a federal facility.  Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA), the sponsor of the USCIRF re-authorization bill, is currently chair of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee that is responsible for funding federal prisons.

Now that it appears increasingly unlikely that USCIRF's life will be extended beyond Dec. 16, the Government Services Administration has notified the Commission that it must take steps to prepare for closure of the agency.  In response USCIRF has adopted a Resolution (full text) authorizing the archiving of records and steps to close the agency in compliance with federal law if a last minute extension is not enacted.  Copies of the Resolution were sent to the President, the Secretary of State and all members of Congress.  CNS News yesterday reported on these developments. [Thanks to Pew Sitter for the lead.]