Legislation To Reauthorize PEPFAR Still Getting Blocked In Senate Despite Agreement Reached Last Week, Bush’s Support
Efforts to pass a measure (S 2731) aimed at reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief failed on Friday after Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) rejected a request by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to vote on the bill, CQ Today reports.
Reid had attempted to add in a substitute amendment fashioned last week (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 6/27). Under the agreement, more than half of PEPFAR funding would go to treatment. The agreement also would require that antiretrovirals used in PEPFAR programs be approved by FDA or another approved regulatory agency. In addition, the agreement would prevent PEPFAR funding for wealthier developing nations, such as China and Russia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27).
Reid then sought to limit time for debate of and amendments to the bill to bring it to the floor for a vote. "We're making an agreement to move the bill to the floor. This offer is more than fair," Reid said. Sessions still objected to moving the bill to the floor, but according to CQ Today, he praised progress on the bill (CQ Today, 6/27).
The bill's supporters had been hoping to pass the legislation before Bush leaves for the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit. The House passed its version (HR 5501) of the measure in April. Bush has said he would like the Senate version to be approved so he can use it as leverage to ask other countries at the summit to make larger contributions to the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27).
Other senators, including Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), continued to express concern about the bill's price tag -- $50 billion, higher than the $30 billion President Bush requested.
Reid said he would attempt to bring the measure to a floor vote after the Senate returns from its July 4 recess but was not optimistic, CQ Today reports. "We're going to finish this bill sometime during the next work period or certainly give that a real try," Reid said (CQ Today, 6/27).
Chicago Sun-Times: "Congressional foot-dragging" on the PEPFAR legislation "has gone on long enough," a Sun-Times editorial says, adding that the Republicans blocking the measures "need to stop wasting time and show America's financial commitment" because "[l]ives depend on it" (Chicago Sun-Times, 6/29).
- Wall Street Journal: Although PEPFAR has had "unparalleled success," the future success of the program is "now up to Congress," a Journal editorial says. The editorial adds that passing the measures before the G8 summit "may or may not shame other countries into more action," but it will "signal [to] African leaders that they can continue to enroll their citizens in treatment programs, confident that America will keep its side of a shared commitment" to fight HIV/AIDS (Wall Street Journal, 6/28).
Sam Ruteikara, Washington Post: It is unlikely PEPFAR will "stop the spread" of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, Ruteikara, co-chair of the Uganda National AIDS Prevention Committee, writes. PEPFAR "calls for Western experts to work as equal partners with African leaders on AIDS prevention," Ruteikara writes, adding that he has "seen this process sabotaged," which has led to increased HIV rates in Uganda (Ruteikara, Washington Post, 6/30).