Senate Minority Leader Daschle Calls for Passage of Foreign Ops Provisions in Omnibus Bill, Including $2.4B for AIDS
Despite indications that the Senate is not likely to vote on the $820 billion omnibus spending bill before January, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has said that he will seek a unanimous consent vote on Tuesday on the foreign operations section of the bill, which includes increased funding to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide, the Washington Post reports (Dewar, Washington Post, 12/6). The Bush administration has been putting pressure on Senate Republicans to vote on the spending bill that includes seven of the 13 annual spending bills for fiscal year 2004 and $2.4 billion in funding for President Bush's global AIDS initiative. House-Senate conferees last month agreed to increase federal spending on the global AIDS initiative for FY 2004 to $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration has requested. 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 omnibus spending bill also includes $1 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account, an assistance program for developing nations that encourages democracy and development through economic aid (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5). Daschle said, "This crisis is too pressing to allow the funding to be held captive any longer by the special-interest giveaways loaded into the ... bill."
Senate Unlikely To Vote Before January
However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is "not inclined to call members back for a roll-call vote" on the bill, Frist Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Ueland said. Ueland added that Frist has not "rule[d] out" changing the timeline and will announce any changes on Tuesday, when the Senate is scheduled to address the bill, according to the Post. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has indicated that he will object to the legislation, which would block it, according to the Post. In addition, the bill could fail unless there is a "full turnout" of senators present for debate, which "could be difficult" to achieve, the Post reports. If the Senate does not take action on the bill this year, the vote likely would be delayed until at least Jan. 20. The House on Monday is expected to reconvene to consider the bill (Washington Post, 12/6).
New York Times Examines Expanded Foreign Aid in Bill
The New York Times on Sunday examined the "turnaround" among Republican lawmakers that led to the "biggest increase in development assistance since 1962," under which "most of that money [is] aimed at combating HIV/AIDS" and creating the Millennium Challenge Account. According to the Times, the "impetus behind Bush's new foreign aid programs has been the fear of global terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks and the looming shadow of the AIDS pandemic." Stephen Morrison, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Africa Program, said, "This is a very big moment for HIV/AIDS and foreign aid. No one would have predicted that the United States would be putting out this money for AIDS and foreign development." Although a vote on the omnibus bill, which includes the AIDS funding, could occur as early as this week, the adiministration has not yet established the Millennium Challenge Corp., which would administer the funding for the programs, according to the Times (Becker, New York Times, 12/7).