July 17, 2008
The Senate on Wednesday voted 80-16 to approve legislation that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at almost $50 billion over the next five years, "rejecting efforts to pare down the bill's" spending levels, the Washington Post reports (Kane, Washington Post, 7/17). The measure would replace and expand the current program, which was passed by Congress in 2003 at $15 billion and will expire at the end of September (Abrams, AP/Google.com, 7/17).
According to the Los Angeles Times, although passage of the measure had stalled in recent weeks over objections from some Republicans concerning its cost, how the money would be spent and the role of abstinence education, most Senate Republicans joined Democrats in backing the measure, which the Bush administration also supports. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said, "It's one of the strongest ways the U.S. has made an impact on a number of countries where our diplomacy hasn't been effective in the past," adding that one of the bill's goals is "the alleviation of extraordinary suffering on Earth" (Patel, Los Angeles Times, 7/17). Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised Bush's "bold" support for AIDS funding, calling it his greatest achievement as president. "We've made tremendous strides, but our work is not nearly finished," Biden said, adding, "Two million people died last year of HIV/AIDS. Over two and a half million people died of malaria" and tuberculosis. According to the Post, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is a "staunch opponent of most government spending," said PEPFAR "is by far the only true foreign policy program that's working. The dollars are actually making a difference" (Washington Post, 7/17). In a statement, Bush said, "With passage of today's bill, we are one step closer to ensuring that this excellent program continues to help those in need. I encourage the full Congress to move quickly to send me final legislation that I can sign" (Cowan, Reuters, 7/16).
Leading opponents of the measure earlier on Wednesday continued to express concern about the bill's price tag. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), whose amendment to reduce the program's funding to $35 billion was rejected by a 32-63 vote, said, "Why, at a time when our country is in debt as far as we can see, why would we as a country create the biggest foreign aid bill in history and borrow more money, $50 billion, and send it all around the world?" (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 7/16). Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the funding should have been reduced to $35 billion over five years. "There should be a limit," he said, adding, "It's one thing to say you'll support it at $15 billion; it's another thing to say you'll support it at $35 billion. To me, it's entirely another thing to support it at $50 billion" (Washington Post, 7/17).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2008 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.