Senate Foreign Relations Committee Expected To Discuss PEPFAR Reauthorization Draft Bill This Week
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to consider a draft bill (S 2731) to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, CQ Today reports. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved its version of the bill late last month, and the bill is expected to reach the full House in April.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joseph Biden (D-Del.) moved up his schedule for considering PEPFAR reauthorization after meeting with White House officials on Feb. 28, according to CQ Today. On March 7, Biden introduced the Senate bill with co-sponsors Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the Foreign Relations committee's ranking Republican, and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The Senate bill would allocate $50 billion for PEPFAR over the next five years (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 3/8). The bill also would "[r]emove most earmarks in the original law that delineated percentages of funding devoted to treatment, to care, and to prevention" (Biden release, 3/7). Like the House version, the Senate bill would require a report to Congress if abstinence and fidelity programs account for less than 50% of prevention spending in each PEPFAR focus country. According to CQ Today, the Senate version of the bill "offers less guidance than the House on the social policy provisions that have nettled" global HIV/AIDS advocates since the launch of PEPFAR. The Senate bill, like the House version, would retain the requirement that PEPFAR recipients pledge opposition to commercial sex work. Although the House version of the bill includes compromise language on family planning issues, the Senate version "steers clear of the issue entirely," CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 3/8). The House version would allow groups to use PEPFAR funding for HIV testing and education in family planning clinics but not for contraception or abortion services. An earlier version of the bill would have allowed the money to be used for such services (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28).
Lugar had proposed allocating $30 billion for PEPFAR but has now agreed to Biden's bill, CQ Today reports. "If the consensus is moving toward the $50 billion, then that's where we need to be," Lugar spokesperson Andy Fisher said. White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said, "We are very happy that Congress does want to move quickly to reauthorize the program," adding, "We want to make sure it's reauthorized in a bipartisan way and maintains the core principles" of PEPFAR (CQ Today, 3/8).