White House Officials Say Bush Administration Funding Pledges for Global HIV/AIDS Programs Being Met
White House officials on Thursday at a background briefing in response to a recent Wall Street Journal article examining U.S. spending for international health and development initiatives said that pledges made by the Bush administration to increase funding for global HIV/AIDS programs are being met, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/27). The Journal on Thursday reported that Bush is "falling further and further behind" on pledges to increase funding for HIV/AIDS and poverty initiatives worldwide, creating shortfalls that are raising alarm among some health and development advocates. According to the Journal, although Bush in 2003 announced that he would increase funding for global HIV/AIDS programs by $10 billion over the following five years, U.S. funding has increased by only $2 billion during fiscal years 2004 and 2005. In addition, even though Bush has proposed an increase of $1.6 billion in funding for FY 2006, the Journal reported that it still leaves a "dauntingly large" $6.4 billion to "extract" from Congress over the next two years in order to meet Bush's initial pledge. The Journal also reported that Bush has "quietly notified" the Millennium Challenge Corporation -- a newly established agency created to administer funding for the Millennium Challenge Account -- that his proposed FY 2006 budget likely will include billions less than he pledged for the initiative during his first term and that if Congress approves Bush's funding request for MCC, it would leave the agency with a $4.5 billion shortfall in what the administration promised to provide over its initial three years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/27).
White House Reaction
According to White House officials speaking at the briefing, Bush's commitment to increase funding for global HIV/AIDS programs is "being held to," according to AFP/Yahoo! News. "If you question the scale-up and the numbers of scale-up, you cannot possibly question whether or not the president is meeting his commitment because he has said from day one that this is exactly what we will do," one official said. The officials also confirmed that Bush will propose $3.2 billion in funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief next month when he sends his FY 2006 budget to Congress (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/27). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 focus countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam. In November 2004, Congress approved a FY 2005 omnibus spending package that included $2.9 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- $99 million more than Bush had requested and much of which will go to PEPFAR (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/24).
Editorials Respond to Proposed FY 2006 Budget
Several newspapers this week have published editorials in response to Bush's proposed FY 2006 budget. Summaries of the articles appear below.
Chicago Tribune: Despite "all the criticism it has received," PEPFAR is "far more sweeping than anything else in play," and "[n]o other president or country has done more to fight AIDS worldwide" than Bush and the United States, according to a Tribune editorial. Although Bush's $3.2 billion funding proposal should "help to allay any remaining doubts" about his "commitment to this cause," Congress -- which will be under "intense pressure to reduce the projected deficit for the coming budget" -- will have the "final word" on the FY 2006 budget, the editorial says. While FY 2006 "needs to be a lean budget year," the United States "should keep its commitment to fight the crisis of AIDS," according to the Tribune, which concludes, "For his part, President Bush should push ahead with his strategy and as quickly as possible. Those affected by the disease haven't got the time to spare" (Chicago Tribune, 1/28).
New York Times: For the "third straight year," Bush has "committed a lot less than he promised" to MCA, while the "sad pattern" of congressional budgetary allocations over the past three years indicates that Bush's "diluted" FY 2006 proposal will be "cut ... even further," according to a Times editorial. "None of that appears to bother the Bush administration," which continues sending high-ranking officials to "promote the anemic" MCA to developing nations even though the agency "has yet to pay out a single dollar," the editorial says. While Congress and Bush will "point to the ballooning deficit and say they don't have the money," the deficit was a "matter of choice," resulting from the "billions [in] tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. They can choose to spend it instead to keep America's promises," the Times concludes (New York Times, 1/28).