Advocates Urge Obama To Increase Global Health Spending, Others Call for Freeze on Foreign Aid
While more than 100 global health and development organizations have signed on to several policy papers urging President-elect Barack Obama's administration to increase spending for HIV/AIDS, global health and development assistance, one dozen House Republicans argue that the current economic downturn necessitates a freeze on foreign aid, CQ Today reports. One letter, submitted by the Global AIDS Roundtable and signed by more than 100 organizations, calls for $12 billion for its programs in fiscal year 2010, including $2 billion for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In addition, the Global Health Council in a transition paper called for about $13.2 billion for global health efforts in FY 2010, including $8.5 billion for HIV/AIDS programs. Several TB organizations also called for $650 million for their efforts and $2.7 million for the Global Fund. Eight maternal health organizations also called for $1.3 billion for their programs in FY 2010.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican, drafted a letter signed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and 10 other House Republicans from the Foreign Affairs panel calling for Obama to freeze foreign assistance at FY 2008 levels for FY 2009 and 2010. According to the letter, the representatives are concerned about the costs of the $700 billion financial bailout program and the Democrats' proposed economic stimulus package. The letter recommends freezing assistance levels "at least until the required reports" on the bailout program are issued and the impact of the stimulus efforts are better understood. The letter does not specify whether the foreign aid freeze would apply to all foreign assistance programs, including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Liz Shrayer, executive director of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, said the letter is not necessarily "reflective of where the Republican Party is on these issues." According to CQ Today, her organization garnered support from 51 senators and 166 representatives from the 110th Congress for a letter urging Obama to request a "robust" budget allocation for international affairs. In addition, other groups such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network have provided "modest suggestions" about restructuring overseas aid programs, CQ Today reports. According to Smita Baruah, director of government relations at the Global Health Council, advocates are "feeling more optimistic" about potential increases in foreign assistance because Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden "have been engaged with global health issues in the Senate." Baruah added that Obama and Biden "already have a level of commitment" to global health, but advocacy groups are "just working to be sure to get the follow through." Adotei Akwei, acting director of government relations at CARE, said, "The big question mark is not if there's going to be strong leadership from [Obama's] administration, but when it's going to kick in." According to CQ Today, during the presidential campaign Obama pledged to increase U.S. foreign assistance to $50 billion annually by the end of his first term and to increase aid for HIV/AIDS and other diseases to $50 billion over five years (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 12/17).