The House on Thursday approved 370-50 a $17.1 billion fiscal 2004 foreign aid appropriations bill that includes $1.4 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. But lawmakers turned back amendments by Democrats that would have boosted AIDS spending to closer to the $3 billion pledged by President Bush in the recently approved five-year, $15 billion international AIDS initiative. Other spending bills already approved by the House will push overall international AIDS spending in 2004 to about $2 billion. Included in the spending packages is $400 million earmarked for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
Representatives on Thursday voted 228-192 to reject an amendment offered by Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) that would have shifted $300 million to the global AIDS initiative from the Millennium Challenge Account, an assistance program for developing nations that encourages democracy and development through economic aid. Another amendment that would have shifted $75 million to the global AIDS initiative from programs to curb drug trafficking in Colombia was rejected by a 226-195 vote.
AIDS advocates said they were discouraged that the House did not appropriate the full $3 billion Bush originally pledged to fight AIDS in poor nations. "The rhetoric surrounding the signing of the HIV/AIDS bill and [Bush's] trip to Africa was hollow," said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "The House had an opportunity to prove today that our commitment is real by increasing funding to fight AIDS. It's very clear that the White House is directly undermining congressional momentum to get the $3 billion" authorized in the global AIDS bill. Republican lawmakers say the spending level is more than adequate for a new program. "Let me make that crystal clear: This Administration and this subcommittee are committed to spending $15 billion to prevention and lifesaving treatments for those afflicted with AIDS around the world," openly gay representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, told The New York Times. "This $2 billion is only our first installment in that program."
The Senate is set to vote on its foreign aid appropriations measure by early August. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved an $18.1 billion fiscal year 2004 foreign aid spending bill that includes $1.4 billion to fight AIDS overseas, but Senate Democrats say that they will push to increase that spending level.