House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill, Including $2.4B for Global AIDS, TB, Malaria
The House on Monday approved 242-176 an $820 billion omnibus spending bill, which combines seven of the 13 annual spending bills for fiscal year 2004, including $2.4 billion in international AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria funding, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 12/9). House-Senate conferees last month agreed to increase FY 2004 federal spending on President Bush's global AIDS initiative 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, 12/8).
House passage of the bill is expected to "increas[e] pressure" on Senate leaders to return from recess to vote on the measure, the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 12/9). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) previously told senators that they are not expected to be present for roll call votes until late January, and he said he is "not inclined to go back on his word" in spite of recent requests from the Bush administration, the Times reports. The Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to meet but is expected only to act on bills that could pass by voice vote. The spending bill is not one of the measures expected to be considered, as it is likely to provoke "extended debate," according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 12/9). Frist has said that he will make a decision on how to handle voting on the spending measure on Tuesday, but Republican aides have said that he is "unlikely" to bring senators back for a vote, CongressDaily reports. Frist on Tuesday planned to file a cloture motion, which would force an up or down vote on the measure as early as Jan. 20, when many senators will have returned from recess (Cohn, CongressDaily, 12/9).
Without an agreement, most of the government will have to operate under a temporary resolution, which funds most government offices at FY 2003 funding levels (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5). This means that appropriation of "long-promised" funding for the global AIDS initiative would be delayed, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 12/9). Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) suggested a unanimous consent vote on the foreign operations section of the bill, which would release the global AIDS funding (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/8). However, Daschle's suggestion "isn't a real option at this stage," the Journal reports. Any further delay in the release of funding for the initiative "would mean medicines and preventive treatments ... would be slower to reach countries in Africa," according to the Journal. However, Frist said that the Bush administration has $150 million in unallocated funds that could be used for the AIDS initiative until the omnibus bill is passed (Wall Street Journal, 12/9).