Senate Democrats Could Block Omnibus Spending Bill, Including Funding for Global AIDS Initiative
Senate Democrats on Tuesday could block passage of a "massive" omnibus spending bill, which includes $2.4 billion for international AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives, the Washington Times reports (Fagan, Washington Times, 1/20). The House last month approved the spending bill, which combines seven of the 13 annual fiscal year 2004 spending bills. House-Senate conferees in November 2003 agreed to increase FY 2004 federal spending on international AIDS, TB and malaria initiatives to $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration had requested. Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration 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. If the bill is blocked, 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, 12/10/03).
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on Friday said that there is "strong support" among Democrats to block a final vote on the spending bill, according to the Times. Democrats would like the bill to include provisions requiring country-of-origin labeling on certain food products and object to provisions on media-ownership rules and overtime-pay. However, House Republican leaders last week warned that changing the bill and sending it back to the House "is not an option," according to the Times. Senate Republicans will need to gain 60 votes in a procedural move on Tuesday to end debate on the spending bill and force a final vote. If Republicans succeed in securing the 60 votes, the Senate probably will pass the measure on Tuesday (Washington Times, 1/20). However, it appears likely that Democrats will block the spending bill, a move that could "alienate key Democratic constituents, such as AIDS activists," according to Roll Call. Republicans are "threaten[ing]" to pass a year-long continuing resolution to maintain FY 2003 funding levels for agencies covered in the bill if the Democrats continue to block the measure, according to Roll Call (Bolton/Earle, Roll Call, 1/20). Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday are scheduled to meet separately with their caucuses to determine their voting strategies (Fram, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/19).