Senate Passes PEPFAR Reauthorization Bill With $2B in Funds for American Indian Programs
The Senate on Wednesday voted 80-16 to approve legislation (S 2731) that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at $50 billion over five years and direct $2 billion of that total to American Indian health care and other programs, the AP/Google.com reports (Abrams, AP/Google.com, 7/17).
Before approving the overall bill, senators unanimously voted to incorporate the American Indian amendment. Over the next five years, the funds would go toward health services, building and rehabilitating health clinics, improving community sewer and water systems, tribal police departments and courts, constructing tribal detention centers and investigating and prosecuting crimes on reservations (Bremner, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 7/17). According to the AP/Google.com, actual spending levels must be approved in annual appropriations bills (AP/Google.com, 7/17).
According to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the violent crime rate in Indian Country is twice the U.S. average and methamphetamine addiction rates are three times the national average (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 7/17).
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who sponsored the amendment with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and others, said, "We don't have to go off of our shore to find third-world conditions" (AP/Google.com, 7/17). Thune added, "Anyone who has spent much time out there and visited with tribal leadership like I have will tell you we've got some very desperate needs" (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 7/17).
The House approved its version of the bill in April, and differences between the Senate and House measures need to be resolved (AP/Google.com, 7/17).
In a statement, President Bush said, "With passage of today's bill, we are one step closer to ensuring that this excellent program continues to help those in need. I encourage the full Congress to move quickly to send me final legislation that I can sign" (Cowan, Reuters, 7/16).