Senate Passes $555B Omnibus Spending Bill
The Senate on Tuesday voted 76-17 to approve a $555 billion fiscal year 2008 omnibus spending bill (HR 2764) that combines 11 unfinished spending measures, the Washington Post reports. The Senate approved the spending bill after voting 70-25 to approve an amendment to add $40 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Kane/Weisman, Washington Post, 12/19).
The House on Monday approved its version of the bill, which combines 10 unfinished spending measures with the FY 2008 foreign operations spending bill. The measure would fund the Department of State, USAID, and other global health and international aid programs. It also affects the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which aims to encourage economic and political reforms in developing countries.
The bill would provide $6.5 billion for U.S. and global health activities, which is $1.4 billion more than in 2007 and $796 million more than President Bush's request, including emergency spending, according to the House Appropriations Committee. Five billion dollars in foreign operations spending would go to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- at least $1.2 billion more than the program received last year.
The bill also includes a provision that would allow overseas HIV/AIDS programs relief from abstinence-education mandates. By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs.
Under the bill, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria would receive about $841 million. The amount includes $546 million in the State-Foreign Operations section and $295 million in the Labor-HHS-Education section of the bill. Bush had requested $300 million for the Global Fund, all of which was allocated in the Labor-HHS bill.
In addition, the measure would provide $1.8 billion for global health and child survival programs, including $347 million for HIV/AIDS programs. Funding for maternal and child health programs would increase by $101 million, and malaria and TB funding would increase by $101 million and $72 million, respectively. The measure would reduce funding for MCC to $1.54 billion -- about half of Bush's requested $3 billion. A proposal to change the way MCC funding is dispersed was dropped.
The measure also would increase funding for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs -- federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals -- by $19 million to $809 million. In addition, the measure would lift a ban on funding for needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C. (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/18). According to the Post, the district Department of Health has said it plans to allocate $1 million in city funds for needle-exchange programs once the funding ban is removed (Sheridan, Washington Post, 12/19).
The Senate sent the measure back to the House for final approval, which is expected Wednesday (Hulse, New York Times, 12/19). According to CQ Today, many Democrats who are opposed to the wars are expected to vote "no" on the final measure, but the measure is expected to have enough support from House Republicans to be approved and sent to Bush (Clarke/Higa, CQ Today, 12/18). Bush has indicated he will sign the measure (New York Times, 12/19).