House-Senate Conference Committee Approves $2.4B for First Year of Global AIDS Initiative
House-Senate conferees on Monday agreed to increase federal spending on the global AIDS initiative for fiscal year 2004 to $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration has requested, the AP/Orlando Sentinel reports (Fram, AP/Orlando Sentinel, 11/17). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the five-year, $15 billion 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." The Senate last month approved an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), to the foreign operations appropriations bill (S 1426) that would add $289 million in additional funding for the first year of the initiative. The amendment brought total Senate funding to $2.4 billion for FY 2004. The House had approved $2.1 billion for the initiative. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) on Nov. 5 introduced a motion urging House-Senate conferees to maintain the higher level of funding for the global AIDS initiative as outlined in the Senate version of the foreign operations appropriations bill (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/17). Conferees agreed to include $1.65 billion for the global AIDS initiative in the foreign operations bill, which they hope to push through Congress this week, according to the AP/Sentinel (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 11/17).
Additional Funds, 'Minor' Issues
A separate $138 billion appropriations bill that funds FY 2004 health, education and labor programs includes another $754 million for the global AIDS initiative, bringing the total to $2.4 billion. The health, education and labor spending measure likely will be combined with other "unfinished" spending bills into "an enormous bill financing much of the government," the Washington Post reports. Congressional leaders hope to pass the spending bill before adjourning for the year -- possibly by the end of the week, according to the Post (Washington Post, 11/18). In addition, lawmakers must reconcile some remaining issues, which Sen. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) called "minor," CongressDaily reports. For example, lawmakers must decide how much funding to allocate toward global family planning programs; a Senate-backed proposal calls for $440 million and the House proposal supports $425 million. A House Appropriations Committee aide said that the two sides would likely "split the difference," CongressDaily reports (Hess, CongressDaily, 11/18).
Millennium Challenge Account
Conferees also agreed to give $650 million -- 50% less than Bush requested -- to the Millennium Challenge Account, the AP/Sentinel reports (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 11/17). The Millennium Challenge Account is an assistance program for developing nations that encourages democracy and development through economic aid (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/17). Lawmakers and congressional aides said that they would try to include additional funding for the MCA "later," maybe in the end-of-session spending bill, according to the AP/Sentinel (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 11/17).