Senate Could Take Up PEPFAR Reauthorization Legislation by End of Week
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday filed a cloture motion that sets up a vote on a bill (S 2731) to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief on Friday, CQ Today reports. Reid said he would try to move the vote to Thursday, saying that he has grown tired of the chamber's failure to solidify a deal.
According to CQ Today, supporters of the measure will need 60 votes to invoke cloture and move to the bill. Fourteen Republicans, led by Richard Lugar (Ind.), wrote Reid last month and urged him to bring the bill to the Senate floor -- indicating that Reid would have an adequate number of votes. However, some Republicans are continuing to object to the bill's cost and some policy provisions, while supporters of the legislation have been working with opponents to limit debate and amendments (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 7/9).
The Senate version of the PEPFAR reauthorization bill passed the Foreign Relations Committee in March, and the House version was approved in April. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would reauthorize PEPFAR at $50 billion over five years. Some senators, including Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), have continued to express concern about the measure, including its price tag. In addition, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) last month rejected a request by Reid to vote on the bill, despite Reid's attempt to add in a substitute amendment under which more than half of PEPFAR funding would go to treatment. The agreement also would require that antiretroviral drugs 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, 6/30).
DeMint said he would offer an amendment that would reduce the cost of the measure to $35 billion -- closer to President Bush's original request of $30 billion -- according to CQ Today. DeMint also said that he plans to offer amendments related to biofuels, oil, gas and abortions in China. In addition, DeMint criticized the bill's "mission creep" into other development activities. "The more we get into it, the more problems there are," he said, adding, "I think it's going to ruin the PEPFAR program" (CQ Today, 7/9).
Senate Should 'Act' on PEPFAR Reauthorization Legislation, Letter to Editor Says
PEPFAR is "reaching the poorest people living in the most rural and remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa," Art Wigchers, a member of the board of the Catholic Relief Services Foundation, writes in a Wall Street Journal letter to the editor in response to a recent Journal editorial. According to Wigchers, the "success of PEPFAR is about more than just treatment. It also involves a balanced focus on morally appropriate prevention and care." Although the "fundamental structure of PEPFAR is sound," the legislation to reauthorize the program "includes some important improvements based on experience," Wigchers writes. PEPFAR is a "great U.S. foreign policy success, and this bill, while not perfect, makes it better," Wigchers writes, concluding, "It is imperative that, immediately upon returning from recess, the Senate act on the bipartisan agreement announced recently by" Reid (Wigchers, Wall Street Journal, 7/9).