Would a Romney Presidency Support AmeriCorps?
Tonight Governor Mitt Romney takes the stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL to formally accept his party’s nomination for President of the United States. As it currently stands, he is in a dead heat with President Obama and the odds are 50/50 he will be sitting in the Oval Office come January 2013.
So what would that mean for national service in America? Would a President Romney continue the bi-partisan tradition of support for national service at the Presidential level spanning over two decades beginning with President George H.W Bush?
The truth is we don’t know. As is the case with other issues, Mitt Romney has a mixed record with respect to his position on the federal investment in national service programs like AmeriCorps.
In the 1990’s and 2000’s, Romney was a champion for national service and AmeriCorps. In 1992, as a City Year board member, he took part in giving then candidate for President Bill Clinton a tour of City Year Boston. That visit is credited for inspiring Clinton to establish AmeriCorps. When AmeriCorps faced a similar situation in 1995 as it is today with Congressional Republicans seeking to eliminate it, President Clinton called on the support of Republican businessman Mitt Romney to help him make his case. Speaking of AmeriCorps Romney said, “It shouldn't be killed. It should be grown and improved." AmeriCorps survived.
In 2003, Governor Mitt Romney, along with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, led a bi-partisan effort to protect AmeriCorps from devastating cuts. They wrote a letter to President Bush in support of providing funding for AmeriCorps and got 41 of their fellow Governors to sign on as well. AmeriCorps survived yet again. Then during his first run for President in 2007, ServeNext caught up with Governor Romney on the campaign trail in New Hampshire and asked him for his plan on national service. While he didn’t have a plan to share, his response was still very positive and supportive of expanding opportunities for Americans to serve their country.
So far so good right? With this long track record as a supporter and protector of AmeriCorps is there any doubt that a President Romney would be any less of a champion for national service than the last four Presidents? Unfortunately for supporters of national service, some of Governor Romney’s recent actions in this current race for the White House leave room for concern.
During the 2012 Republican Primary, Governor Romney’s support for funding AmeriCorps has been ambiguous. Four years later, ServeNext again caught up with Romney to follow up on our request for his national service plan and instead of hearing about his long standing support for providing opportunities for Americans to serve their country, we were disappointed to get a response focused on explaining the need to cut government spending.
Then the person he chose as his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, is a leader in the fight to gut federal funding for national service. The Huffington Post recently came out with a story titled, “Paul Ryan And Mitt Romney At Odds On Funding AmeriCorps.” While I agree that the two men clearly share two different views about the value and impact of AmeriCorps, I think the question of whether they disagree on funding AmeriCorps is still an open book.
Tonight’s speech isn’t likely to shed any light on whether or not Romney would support AmeriCorps as President of the United States. We will never know until that day comes to be. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in asking both candidates for President to support national service programs like AmeriCorps and ensure every American citizen who wants to serve their country has the opportunity to do so.