Questions arise over Rep. Johnson’s vote to defund Peace Corps

WASHINGTON D.C. -South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson is raising eyebrows in South Dakota and in Washington D.C. after his vote in favor of a foreign spending bill. The legislation calls for the Peace Corps to be completely de-funded.

Johnson’s vote was met with outrage from lawmakers and Peace Corps volunteers alike.

One person who takes issue with the vote is former South Dakota State Senator and former Peace Corps volunteer Tom Katus. He was among first group of volunteers in the 1960’s.

“The Peace Corps is one of the most popular bipartisan programs in the United States,” Katus said. “All the Republican Presidential candidates, including Trump, have supported it over the years.”

Since the Peace Corps started in the early 1960’s, some 700 South Dakotans have joined and served. Current State Senator Michael Saba of Hardford was also a Peace Corps volunteer, and is critical of Johnson’s vote.

“There are a lot of ways to fund disaster funding,” Saba said. “To take it away from the Peace Corps, take it away from boondoggle programs, not something as good as the Peace Corps.”

Johnson says his vote against the bill had to do with making domestic disaster funding more of a priority. In a written statement to NewsCenter1, Johnson said, “I support a reasonably-funded Peace Corps. Unfortunately, it has been caught up in a larger debate between Republicans and Speaker Pelosi. It’s important to me that we prioritize domestic disasters over foreign aid. When a common sense appropriations package is put forward, I look forward to voting to fund the Peace Corps.”

But some, like former Senator Katus believe Johnson and his staff may have accidentally overlooked or mis-read the total de-funding of the Peace Corps.

“I think it was people moving too fast before the Fourth of July, not looking into things,” Katus said.

Katus also says this can be a learning opportunity for Johnson and his staff. Going forward, Katus said he and members of the Peace Corps will brief Johnson and his staff on the benefits of the organization.

“I think by his subsequent action, he’s admitted that graciously and reached out to be better informed so this doesn’t happen in the future,” Katus said.

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