Conservatives Press House Committee To Draft Competing AIDS Legislation With More Focus on Abstinence
Conservative advocates and members of the House of Representatives are encouraging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to draft an international AIDS bill to compete with a measure (HR 1298) passed last week by the House International Relations Committee, Roll Call reports. Some conservative lawmakers and advocates have said that the passed bill does not put enough emphasis on abstinence as a prevention method and allows money to be allocated to nongovernmental organizations that also provide abortion-related services (Wallison, Roll Call, 4/9). The International Relations Committee last week approved 37-8 an amended version of the bill, sponsored by committee chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), which would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight global AIDS. The bill would allocate $3 billion a year for five years for HIV/AIDS, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Hyde, who opposes abortion rights, avoided the abortion issue by excluding language from the bill that prohibits federal funding from going to health and family planning groups that perform or counsel on abortion. The so-called "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. The Bush administration had shown support for extending the policy to HIV/AIDS efforts (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/3). Efforts last week in the International Relations committee to attach language addressing birth control and family-planning issues were defeated, according to Roll Call.
Committee Move Would Be a 'Stretch'
In order for the Energy and Commerce Committee to consider a competing measure, it would have to substantiate a claim to jurisdiction over the issue likely by linking the legislation to HHS, which the Bush administration does not want to be involved in administering an international AIDS program. An unnamed congressional aide said that successfully gaining jurisdiction over the legislation would be a "stretch" for the committee, and unnamed White House insiders expressed hesitation at ceding jurisdiction to the committee for fear that the measure could become stuck in committee. The Energy and Commerce Committee has already held hearings on the AIDS initiative, and spokesperson Ken Johnson yesterday said that the committee was "clearly" going to play a roll in the bill. "Before we do anything, Chairman [Billy] Tauzin (R-La.) is going to consult with ... Hyde," Johnson said, adding that Tauzin has "the greatest respect and reverence" for Hyde (Roll Call, 4/9).