Senate Approves Amendment To Provide Additional $289M for Global AIDS Initiative
The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to approve an amendment to the $18.4 billion foreign operations appropriations bill (S 1426) that would provide an additional $289 million for the five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative, Reuters reports (Clark, Reuters, 10/30). The amendment would increase federal spending on the global AIDS initiative for fiscal year 2004 from $2.1 billion already approved by the Senate to nearly $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration requested. The House has approved $2.1 billion for the initiative (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 10/31). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration has requested only $2 billion. Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in order to give the program time to "ramp up" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/28). Action on the bill had been held up for several days because Senate Budget Committee Chair Don Nickles (R-Okla.) required that cuts be made in other areas of the budget to make up for the proposed additional AIDS spending. Nickles' office said that he supports full funding of the global AIDS initiative but that it was his responsibility to "make sure Congress sticks to its spending limits" (Abrams, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/30). Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) brokered a deal to reduce spending in other areas to get the measure approved. Nickles voted in favor of the measure, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was the only senator to vote against it (New York Times, 10/31). The appropriations bill now goes to a House-Senate conference in order to reconcile differences (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/30).
"This is the right thing to do. This will save lives," Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), a sponsor of the amendment, said (New York Times, 10/31). "The funding levels are moving in the right direction," David Bryden, spokesperson for the Global AIDS Alliance, said, adding, "We still feel that Congress ought to keep its promises and ought to approve the full $3 billion" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/30). Irish rock star Bono, founder of DATA, an AIDS, debt relief and trade advocacy group, said that the passage of the amendment was a "key move from the Senate," adding, "More money to fight the AIDS emergency is critical, not just to save millions of lives in Africa, but to keep the momentum going. That senators as diverse as DeWine, [Dick] Durbin (D-Ill.), [Rick] Santorum (R-Penn.), [Patrick] Leahy (D-Vt.), [Bill] Frist (R-Tenn.) and [Tom] Daschle (D-S.D.) agree on this should give a signal to how serious the situation is" (DATA release, 10/30). "We still have important work to do to make sure this funding makes the final cut in end-of-the-year budgeting," Mark Issac, vice president of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, adding, "[I]f it does, it will be a crucial building block in carrying out President Bush's historic promise of $15 billion over five years to help stop this rapidly spreading epidemic" (EGPAF release, 10/30).
InterAction Policy Paper
The Bush administration needs to overhaul its foreign aid policies and streamline the bureaucratic structure of aid programs, InterAction, the largest U.S. alliance of international development organizations, said in a policy paper released on Friday (Pleming, Reuters, 10/31). InterAction, which represents 160 international aid organizations, including Save the Children, World Vision International, Oxfam America, Mercy Corps and Catholic Relief Services, said that new projects, such as the global AIDS initiative and the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, are being funded "at the expense" of other long-standing humanitarian and development projects, the Washington Post reports. "As Congress further pares back the administration's funding request, a Hobson's choice has emerged between funding for core development programs versus high-profile new initiatives, such as HIV/AIDS," the report says. Although InterAction's member organizations support the new AIDS initiative, the expanded efforts represent an "increasingly stark gap between funding rhetoric and reality," according to the report. The report calls for a review and overhaul of foreign assistance programs, including USAID. "Foreign aid activities in the field are scattershot as representatives of as many as five separate U.S. agencies may be carrying out activities on HIV/AIDS, for instance, often without the knowledge of the U.S. ambassador, the USAID mission director or appropriate local government officials," the report said (Slevin, Washington Post, 10/31).
Frist Testifies on Africa Trip
Frist on Thursday testified before two Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittees regarding a congressional delegation he led to Southern Africa in August (CongressDaily/AM, 10/31). Frist led a six-member congressional delegation, which also included Sens. DeWine, Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Warner (R-Va.), that traveled to South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia to meet with government and public health officials, physicians and HIV-positive people and their families (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/9). The hearing was the first in a series that Congress is expected to hold to address the U.S. commitment to AIDS in Africa, Alexander said. Frist did not discuss the current debate over funding levels but did say that the United States was operating on a "learning curve" and next year "will be able to invest an incremental amount in the most useful way, based on what we are learning right now." Frist also discussed developing medical infrastructure in African nations; building partnerships between governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector; and prevention, care and treatment issues (CongressDaily/AM, 10/31).