TAMPA, Fla. (CN) — Senator Rick Scott wants to withdraw the Peace Corps from “hostile” countries such as China, the Florida Republican said Tuesday, in introducing legislation that would strip the program of its relative autonomy and put it under the State Department.
Scott’s “Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act” would put the Peace Corps under the umbrella of the State Department instead of its current position as an independent agency under the executive branch.
The bill would give the secretary of state authority over the director of the Peace Corps and “ensure the agency’s work and budget is in line with the foreign policy goals of the United States.” It also calls for the Peace Corps to leave China and prohibit future volunteers from working in “hostile” countries.
The bill stems from disagreements between Scott and Peace Corps Director Judy Olsen. According to Scott, Olsen refused his request to move volunteers out of China during a meeting on July 11.
“We want the Peace Corps to do good work across the globe – just not with our enemies like China,” Scott said in a statement. “The Peace Corps continues to use taxpayer dollars to support programs in places like China, which continues to steal our technology and intellectual property, refuses to open up their markets, is militarizing the South China Sea, violates human rights and supports [President Nicolás] Maduro’s genocide in Venezuela.”
Neither Olsen nor another representative of the Peace Corps could be reached for comment after office hours Tuesday night.
Formed by President John F. Kennedy 58 years ago, the Peace Corps defines its mission as promoting “world peace and friendship” by providing trained men and women to work on development projects abroad and foster understanding between cultures. Volunteers have built schools, improved farming practices and fought malaria and HIV/AIDS.
More than 230,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 141 countries since its inception. Today 65 countries host more than 7,300 volunteers, including 134 in China, according to the agency.
Scott, the former governor of Florida elected to the Senate in 2016, has frequently attacked China’s trade policies and militarization in the South China Sea.
Scott has asked the Office of Management and Budget for information on funding the United States sends to China and China-affiliated enterprises.
“China is clearly our enemy, and I was horrified to recently learn that the federal government spends more than $32.5 million per year in foreign aid in China, a country wealthy enough not to need support from U.S. taxpayers,” Scott said in the letter to Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.