Supporters Fear Bush’s Failure To Push ‘Compassionate’ Agenda, Including AIDS, Could Make Him ‘Politically Vulnerable’
Some of President Bush's supporters and administration officials fear that the president's failure to demand funding for programs in his "compassionate conservative" agenda, such as the global AIDS initiative, with the same energy he has spent on tax cuts and the war in Iraq could leave him "politically vulnerable" in the 2004 election, the New York Times reports. Critics say that Bush's action on the AIDS bill and other items in his "compassionate" agenda have followed a similar pattern: he delivers a speech calling for "millions or even billions" in funding for a new initiative and "then fails to follow through and push hard" for the funding in Congress, according to the Times (Bumiller, New York Times, 8/26). Bush in May signed into law a measure (HR 1298) that authorizes $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The House so far has approved a total of $2 billion for the AIDS initiative in fiscal year 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/22). Many Democrats say that Bush heavily promoted the bill, especially during his trip to Africa last month, but then failed to push for the full amount of funding in Congress. Bush requested $2 billion of the $3 billion authorized for the first year of the program (New York Times, 8/26).
More Than Money
During a press conference last month, Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in funding for the first year of the global AIDS initiative in order to give the program time to "ramp up." Bush said, "We sent up something less than $3 billion because we didn't think the program could ramp up fast enough to absorb that amount of money early," adding, "It ramps up more in the out-years, as the program is capable of absorbing a lot of money" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/31). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who is currently leading a six-member congressional delegation in Africa, said yesterday during a telephone press conference that $2 billion is the "most appropriate level" for now. Frist said that he has seen a "lack of infrastructure, a lack of training, coupled with a stigma among the populations ... [that] just money itself" will not solve, according to the Associated Press (Zuckerbrod, Associated Press, 8/25). The Senate Appropriations Committee last month approved an $18.1 billion FY 2004 foreign aid spending bill, including $1.4 billion to fight AIDS. Additional money for the initiative is expected to be included in other spending bills. In addition, the Senate on July 10 passed a nonbinding resolution calling for $3 billion to be appropriated in FY 2004 to fight AIDS overseas, even if the amount exceeds the ceiling mandated in Congress's annual budget resolution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/31). Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who is chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said that $2 billion at the beginning of the program is sufficient, adding, "I think we're showing sensible compassion" (New York Times, 8/26).