House Budget Committee Chair Nussle Facing Criticism for International Affairs, HIV/AIDS Funding Levels
Religious leaders and AIDS advocates are criticizing House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) because of the level of funding in his fiscal year 2005 budget proposal allocated for international affairs, including HIV/AIDS programs, Roll Call reports. Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian and ecumenical leaders from Iowa's 1st district are "gently warning" Nussle to approve more funding for the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to Roll Call (Pierce, Roll Call, 4/22). The House in March approved a $2.4 trillion fiscal year 2005 budget, which includes $4 billion less than President Bush requested for international affairs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/26). Nussle's budget plan cuts foreign aid in favor of increases for the funding of veterans' benefits and other programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18). Bush's proposed FY 2005 budget includes $2.8 billion for international HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs, including $1.45 billion for the new State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and $200 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Senate FY 2005 budget resolution, which was approved on March 12, would increase Bush's foreign aid request by $300 million. The Senate during debate on the measure approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that would add $300 million to fight global AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/26).
Nussle spokesperson Sean Spicer said that Nussle is "willing to listen" to his constituents' concerns, but he added that the "only number appropriators will be bound by" is the $800 billion discretionary spending total included in the final House-Senate budget resolution, Roll Call reports. Spicer added, "There are a handful of folks who are very adamant, [but f]rankly they don't understand the budget process. ... What they should be putting their efforts and their energy into is in influencing the folks who control the foreign operations appropriations." House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Jon Scofield said that appropriators likely will follow the funding level agreed to by House-Senate conference negotiators, according to Roll Call. Scofield added that the "overall number" does not affect the amount the committee will provide to fight HIV/AIDS internationally, Roll Call reports. Scofield said that Nussle is "getting a bum rap" because he "made some cuts in the foreign affairs (budget) total which we're probably going to make too, but it doesn't say anything about AIDS funding." Both House and Senate negotiators say they hope to come to an agreement early next week, according to Roll Call (Roll Call, 4/22).