The newly passed 2020 omnibus budget will ensure that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) receives funding for a further three years.
The USCIRF, which keeps tabs on violations of religious freedom across the world, was set to expire at the end of the month.
“Pleased to report that we have reached a bipartisan compromise on our bill to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) & it will pass this week,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted Wednesday.
Pleased to report that we have reached a bipartisan compromise on our bill to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) & it will pass this week. https://t.co/JlwiQyXPRV— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 18, 2019
The $1.7 trillion spending bill was passed in the Senate Wednesday via a vote of 71-23 and will fund government programs through Sept. 30, 2020.
Not everyone was happy with the hastily agreed budget, however. Sen. Ted Cruz called it a “$1.4 trillion spending monstrosity [that] plunges our nation even further into debt,” according to the Texan.
“This ridiculous, rushed, end-of-year spending process, year after year, is an example of government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists,” he added.
President Trump is set to sign the bill shortly. “He’s very happy with what he’s learned the final contents are expected to be in the spending bill, and he’s pleased to sign it,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Along with monitoring religious freedom issues, USCIRF also makes policy recommendations to the White House, State Department and Congress.
Today, the State Department announced that it would be re-designating certain nations as “Countries of Concern” because of their poor performance on protecting religious freedom.
“No country, entity, or individual will be able to persecute people of faith with impunity. These religious freedom designations show that when faith is attacked, we will act.”
The U.S. has been, and will continue to be, unwavering in its commitment to #religiousfreedom. No country, entity, or individual will be able to persecute people of faith with impunity. These religious freedom designations show that when faith is attacked, we will act. https://t.co/kPqBm5NA68— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 20, 2019
Those re-added to the list of countries that the U.S. is keeping a careful eye on include: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
According to the State Department, they have been blackmarked “under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.’”
Photo courtesy: Alejandro Barba/Unsplash
Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.