Senate Foreign Relations Committee To Consider PEPFAR Reauthorization Bill Thursday
A Senate draft bill (S 2731) that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at $50 billion over the next five years is "expected to generate some" opposition from Republicans because of the "proposed steep increase in funding," CQ Today reports. PEPFAR originally was authorized at $15 billion over five years, and President Bush has called on Congress to reauthorize the program at $30 billion over five years. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider the draft reauthorization bill on Thursday.
According to CQ Today, reauthorizing PEPFAR at $50 billion "strikes some Republicans as too much, too fast." Aides to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he might offer an amendment to the bill that would set funding at $30 billion. Committee Chair Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who authored the bill, has the support of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee's ranking member, as well as two other committee Republicans.
The Senate reauthorization bill is similar to the House version, which was approved last month. The House version also would authorize $50 billion over five years and has the support of some House Republicans and the Bush administration, according to CQ Today (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 3/12).
The House bill would allow groups to use PEPFAR funding for HIV testing and education in family planning clinics but not for contraception or abortion services (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28). However, the Senate version does not mention family planning. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) during the Foreign Relations Committee hearing might offer an amendment that would expand the ability of family planning groups to provide HIV/AIDS services. Although such an amendment could "put the Senate at odds with the House on the issue," the House version "represents a compromise that helped bring both parties, along with the administration, on board," and the Senate might not "want to upset that balance," CQ Today reports.
Both the Senate and House versions of the bill address social policies in PEPFAR's original mandate. Both would remove a requirement that at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. They also would retain the requirement that PEPFAR recipients pledge opposition to commercial sex work (CQ Today, 3/12). In addition, both versions would require a report to Congress if abstinence and fidelity programs account for less than 50% of prevention spending in each PEPFAR focus country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/10).
Related Opinion Piece
It is "crucial" that PEPFAR does not "become a political football," the Rev. Terry Charlton -- founder of a school for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya -- writes in an opinion piece in The Hill. According to Charlton, members of Congress, "from both sides of the aisle," should "continue to work together for the sake of Africa." Charlton adds that unless PEPFAR "goes forward and is actually funded at the authorized level, together with programs that address the broader context of the epidemic, the ones who suffer the most will be the children" he works with "every day" (Charlton, The Hill, 3/11).