Senate Approves $800M in FY 2006 Funding for Global Fund; President Bush’s Budget Proposal Requested $300M
The Senate on Thursday approved 51-49 a fiscal year 2006 $2.6 trillion budget resolution (S Con Res 18), including an amendment that would provide a $500 million increase in funding for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and bring the total amount for the fund to $800 million, Reuters reports. President Bush in his FY 2006 budget request proposed $300 million go to the Global Fund. "One of the most important things we can do is work on the pandemic that's affecting Africa right now," Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a co-sponsor of the amendment, said (Reuters, 3/17). Santorum and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who last week announced that they would seek $800 million for the proposed FY 2006 contribution to the Global Fund, on March 5 sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Budget Committee to emphasize the importance of the United States' commitment to international HIV/AIDS assistance programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/11). HIV/AIDS advocates "praised the move," according to Reuters. "Sens. Santorum and Durbin are hall of famers in the fight against global AIDS," Irish musician Bono -- founder of the AIDS, debt and trade organization DATA -- said in a statement, adding, "The Senate has raised the bar, now the rest of the world needs to match support for the Global Fund." The House also must approve the funding increase for it to take effect (Reuters, 3/17). Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said, "If the House agrees and congressional appropriators then use this budget authority, it means the U.S. will more effectively challenge other nations to do their part in supporting the fund," adding that such an increase in funding "will help the U.S. keep its promise to support the fund, which is a cost-effective and democracy-enhancing means of fighting AIDS, TB and malaria" (GAA release, 3/18).
Senate Passes Budget Without Medicaid Cuts
The Senate on Thursday also approved an amendment to the budget resolution that would reject President Bush's proposed cuts to Medicaid, AP/USA Today reports (AP/USA Today, 3/17). The Senate voted 52-48 to adopt an amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) that would keep Medicaid funding intact (CQ HealthBeat, 3/17). The amendment would remove from the budget resolution an instruction for the Senate Finance Committee to find $15 billion in mandatory savings over five years, $14 billion of which are expected to come from Medicaid (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 3/16). Supporters of the Smith amendment believe federal and state policy experts need time to try to fix the Medicaid system before Congress sets "arbitrary spending limits," the Washington Post reports. "In good times and bad, the people you don't abandon or put at risk are the people in most need," Smith said (Weisman, Washington Post, 3/18). "Today's victory was a result of the leadership of a bipartisan effort of Senators who share a commitment and compassion for America's most vulnerable citizens," The AIDS Institute Executive Director Gene Copello said, adding, "They were joined by many governors and advocates from around the country, including many from the HIV/AIDS community" (TAI release, 3/17).