Senate Scheduled To Vote on PEPFAR Amendments Tuesday
The Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on several amendments to legislation (S 2731) that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, CQ Today reports. According to CQ Today, the amendments aim to "chip away at the scope and $50 billion cost" of the legislation. One of the amendments, sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) would limit the program to 15 low-income countries where PEPFAR already is operating. "The bill doesn't prohibit funding for China and Russia and India, countries that are quite wealthy and have their own nuclear weapons and space exploration programs," Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said, adding, "Certainly, we ought to limit the funding of the bill to countries that need the money." Another amendment sponsored by DeMint would reduce the bill's cost to $35 billion (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 7/14).
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. A Senate agreement reached last month with some of the bill's detractors would ensure that 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. Some senators have continued to express concern about the measure, including its price tag (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14).
DeMint also aimed to bring up language to bar funding from groups that support "coercive abortion and forced sterilization" in China by including it in one of his amendments (CQ Today, 7/14). However, a Democratic aide said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would move to table DeMint's first set of amendments, which would likely force the abortion language to fail (Taylor, Roll Call, 7/14).
According to CQ Today, the bill also faces a budget point of order because the mandatory spending it would authorize was not included in the 2009 fiscal year budget; it would take 60 votes to waive the point of order.
On Monday, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended the bill's cost and said that the chamber should avoid toying with the measure. "Most (U.S. officials) believe that adding new restrictions to the law can limit the flexibility of those charged with implementation in 2009 and beyond," Lugar said, adding, "In my judgment, the dollars spent on this program can be justified purely on the basis of the humanitarian results that we have achieved. But the value of this investment clearly extends to our national security and to our national reputation" (CQ Today, 7/14).