A bill that would
shift millions of dollars for AIDS care to other areas
of the United States is being held up in the Senate by
Democrats from California, New York, and New Jersey,
whose states would lose out.
threaten to stall passage of the $2.1 billion Ryan White
CARE Act before Congress wraps up work this week ahead of
the November 7 midterm election.
originally passed in 1990, sends money to state and local
programs for the neediest patients. A rewritten
bill that has passed House and Senate committees
would funnel more money to Southern and chiefly rural
states where AIDS is spreading, but it would allocate less
money to some larger states and urban areas that have been
at the front line of the epidemic.
leaders hoped to get the legislation through the full House
and Senate this week, but Democratic senators Barbara Boxer
of California, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer of
New York, and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of
New Jersey are all objecting.
spilled into Senate debate Tuesday evening when Republican
senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming took the floor to call for
immediate passage and to urge senators to drop their
senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota immediately objected,
saying he was doing so on behalf of senators who oppose
''permanent reduction of funding that would occur in
their respective states.''
rules, an objection by a single senator is enough to block
''I'm sorry to
hear we have an objection. We need to find a way to get
through this objection,'' said Enzi, chairman of the U.S.
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions. He said the new bill sends money to states
that really need it.
''If they truly
have the HIV numbers, they will get the money. If they
don't have the HIV numbers, yes, they will lose the money,''
Enzi's aides said
they would look for other ways to pass the bill this
week, perhaps by attaching it to another must-pass piece of
change in the bill is in how patients are counted.
Current law only counts patients with full-blown AIDS to
determine spending. The revision also would count
patients with HIV who have yet to develop AIDS.
That change would
favor areas of the country where the disease is a newer
phenomenon, which tend to be Southern states and rural
Opponents in the
House and Senate offered alternate legislation Tuesday
that would extend the existing law for a year to allow more
negotiations to take place. But the holdouts were
getting pressure from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of
Massachusetts, top Democrat on the health committee, who
supports the rewritten bill. ''There are few more urgent
responsibilities for Congress this week than to pass
this bipartisan legislation,'' he said in a statement
The gay political
group Log Cabin Republicans is also urging passage of
the bill. "It's time for these senators [to] put the
national interest above local special interests," Log
Cabin executive vice president Patrick Sammon said in
a statement. (Erica Werner, AP, with additional
reporting by The Advocate)