House Lawmakers Plan To Introduce Legislation Authorizing Funding for President Bush’s Global AIDS Initiative
House lawmakers are expected today to introduce legislation that would authorize spending that would "far exceed" President Bush's international HIV/AIDS proposal, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 3/17). During his State of the Union Address, Bush proposed increasing funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean to $15 billion over five years, including $10 billion in new money. The administration, which has said that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria "does not have a proven track record," wants to allocate only $200 million to the fund this year, leaving the majority of the proposed money to be distributed by the State Department (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6). The Times reports that the House proposal would authorize $15 billion -- $3 billion a year for five years -- for HIV/AIDS funding, but the bill would authorize "more" of the money -- up to $1 billion in 2004 -- to the Global Fund than Bush's plan (New York Times, 3/17). The Chicago Tribune reports that the House could authorize $20 billion over five years for the proposal, effectively "tripl[ing] U.S. assistance for HIV and AIDS care" and allowing Bush to contribute up to $1 billion each year to the fund. The House proposal would also cap U.S. contributions to the fund, limiting annual contributions to the fund from the United States to up to 33% of the Global Fund's total annual donations, according to the Tribune. The plan would allow the United States to spend an additional $3 billion a year on international HIV/AIDS programs; the country currently spends $1 billion annually on such programs (Zuckman, Chicago Tribune, 3/17). According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the compromise measure will allow funding to go to organizations and clinics that provide both family planning and AIDS-related services, including abortion. By agreeing to not apply the "Mexico City" policy, the Bush administration "pleased" family planning advocates, the Chronicle reports, noting that abortion-rights opponents did not return their phone calls seeking comment (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/17). The "Mexico City" policy -- which was originally implemented by President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by President Clinton and reinstated by Bush on the first day of his presidency -- "bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion, even with their own money, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/11). According to the Times, the measure also "seeks to promote" several "healthy lifestyle" choices, including the use of condoms, monogamy, marriage and "faithfulness."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said, "It's not all that we hoped for, but many of the provision[s] that we fought for are in it" (New York Times, 3/17). Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill), chair of the International Relations Committee and author of the measure, which is also supported by Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), said that HIV/AIDS "is one of the great moral challenges of our era, for it is a scourge of unparalleled proportions in modern times," adding, "Accordingly, we should do all we can to meet this test by reaching out now to those most in need." Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said that the measure is "way beyond what the president wants and what the Senate's doing right now." He cautioned that the bill's "authorization level," which allows a certain amount of money to be spent on the initiative, is "not the same as an appropriation," according to the Tribune (Chicago Tribune, 3/17).