Frist Says He Will Bring House-Passed AIDS Bill Directly to Senate Floor This Week
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) yesterday said that he will likely bring a House-passed global HIV/AIDS bill (HR 1298) to the Senate floor this week, Reuters Health reports (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 5/13). The House earlier this month approved the measure, sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), which would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The bill would authorize $3 billion a year for five years to international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Hyde's bill endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which has had success in lowering AIDS prevalence rates in Uganda. The bill also allows international organizations that counsel about abortion to receive U.S. funding on the condition that family planning and abortion programs be financed and run separately. In addition, the bill would establish a new federal task force to act as a shadow for the Global Fund as part of an effort to allay fears among many Republicans that the fund is inefficient (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/9). Frist said that the bill will reach the Senate floor following the passage of the tax bill the chamber is currently considering, adding that "[h]opefully it will be Thursday," according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 5/13).
Bypass of Alternate AIDS Bill
By bringing the House-passed bill directly to the Senate floor, Frist will be bypassing another HIV/AIDS measure introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 5/13). Committee Chair Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) last week filed the bill in anticipation of the House-passed bill's being called up. The Foreign Relations bill would impose fewer conditions on when U.S. contributions would be made to the Global Fund, authorizing as much as $2.2 billion for the fund over the next two years. Final funding will have to be reexamined before the foreign aid budget is finalized in the fall (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/9). President Bush said that he would sign the House-passed measure if it passes and recently added that he wants no more than $2 billion in total spending next year, according to Reuters Health. Tight budgets could prevent Congress from appropriating the full $3 billion authorized by the House-passed bill for next year, according to Reuters Health.
Amendments and Reaction
Senate Democrats have said that they will introduce an alternative HIV/AIDS spending package that will include more money for the Global Fund. According to Reuters Health, the alternative plan would allocate $500 million for the fund in 2004 and would authorize an additional $500 million to match contributions from other nations. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said that Democrats will also try to amend the House-passed bill to eliminate language committing one-third of funding to abstinence programs. "We want to encourage abstinence, but we also want to encourage practicality," Daschle said. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that he would introduce a separate amendment forcing the government to pay for low-cost generic antiretroviral drugs. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said that Republicans may introduce their own amendments if Democrats try to alter the House-passed bill, which could "se[t] up a fight [over the bill] on the Senate floor," according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 5/13).