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House approves funding for Lantos human rights panel

Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The House for the first time will direct funds to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a panel of members that has operated on a volunteer basis since it was created nearly a decade ago.

The House Administration Committee on Wednesday by voice vote backed a $200,000 allocation from a reserve fund for commission operations and personnel. Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said the committee resolution was in response to a request from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House established the commission by unanimous consent in 2008 following the death of its namesake, then-Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., but has never allocated funding. The bipartisan commission's leaders requested $230,000 for fiscal 2018 within the Legislative Branch appropriations bill.

The commission is the successor to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus co-founded in 1983 by Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress.

"We are thrilled to secure this funding. It's the first time the Commission has had funding for professional staff since it was established in 2008," Rep. Jim McGovern, co-chairman of the commission, said in a statement.

So far in the 115th Congress, the commission has held 14 hearings, 13 briefings and a roundtable discussion with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "We are incredibly proud of the work the Commission staff has been able to do in recent years with very modest resources," added McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

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McGovern told appropriators last year that the commission held 22 hearings and more than 40 briefings during the 114th Congress, with topics ranging from religious freedom to civilians in Syria. This work was completed by "a rotating patchwork of temporary fellows and volunteers," he said.

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