The House yesterday passed a scaled-down State Department authorization bill which the administration says would mean sharp curtailment of the Fulbright and other cultural exchange programs.
The bill would also make U.S. passports good for 10 years rather than the current five.
Reflecting the new budget-cutting proposals the administration made this fall, the legislation contemplates spending $171 million less for State and the International Communications Agency than would have been available under a House bill that was defeated last month.
State has said that if it has to make such cuts it will release some 600 employes while the ICA intends to reduce academic exchange programs and visits by foreign nationals to this country.
According to an internal ICA document, the agency would cut Fulbright programs 53 percent below the original budget figure, and continue active Fulbright programs in only 59 of the 120 countries where they now exist.
The Fulbright program was established in 1946 and named after Sen. William J. Fulbright (D-Ark.) who sponsored the legislation in Congress. The program provides grants for graduate study, teaching and research on an exchange basis with other countries.
The agency says cuts of the contemplated size would also mean elimination of counseling and orientation programs for some 300,000 foreign students studying in the United States, and a 50 percent reduction in the number of grants for international visitors to the United States. This grants program has brought many young foreign leaders to this country for visits early in their careers.
The bill passed yesterday by a vote of 317 to 58 without an attempt by critics of the threatened cuts to make any changes. Its manager, Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), acknowledged that the agency's plans for allocating the cuts would "practically wipe out some exchange programs."
He promised opponents of those cuts to try to protect the cultural programs when the bill goes to conference with the Senate, which has passed a larger authorization.
An original House bill proposing $3.1 billion for State, ICA and other agencies was defeated in a floor vote on Sept. 17 with the Republican leadership contending it did not reflect the austerity budgets being inflicted on other departments.
The new bill, which had bipartisan leadership backing, authorizes $2.9 billion.
The ICA internal memorandum says the agency has decided to allocate a major share of the reductions to the exchange programs "on the assumption that a significant part of this very valuable grant program can be deferred for a year or two and be rebuilt more readily than our more staff-intensive programs."
Other ICA programs would suffer little from the reductions. The Voice of America's staff and broadcasts would be "maintained intact," the document said.
The proposed cuts drew fire from Fascell and other opponents, but they said that attempting to preserve the cultural programs through legislation would fail. Rep. Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.) said the cuts would "virtually eliminate the Fulbright program."
The House overwhelmingly defeated an effort to force the administration to transfer some $80 million over the next two years from some international organizations' programs in order to beef up foreign broadcasting by the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
Rep. Edward J. Derwinski (R-Ill.) promoted the transfers as a device for increasing radio broadcasts that he said are widely appreciated by Soviet dissidents and the Solidarity union movement in Poland.