The U.S. Senate
voted to lift restrictions on family-planning aid to
overseas health organizations that perform abortions or
promote the procedure as a method of family planning.
came as the Senate passed by a 81-12 vote a $34
billion measure funding foreign aid and U.S.
diplomacy. Companion legislation passed the U.S. House
in June, and the measure now heads to House-Senate
negotiations over a final version.
family-planning vote has dim prospects of becoming law.
President George W. Bush is a passionate advocate of
the current policy and has promised to veto any
attempt to undermine it.
Such veto threats
also apply to the underlying bill covering foreign aid
and the U.S. State Department budget. It would ease the
restrictions to permit family-planning groups cut off
from U.S. aid to accept U.S.-donated contraceptives.
In a brief but
emotional debate, Democratic senator Barbara Boxer said
overseas family-planning groups are blocked from counseling
women about abortion or from participating in debates
about abortion policy in their own countries if they
want to hold onto their U.S. aid.
literally gags foreign organizations that receive (U.S.)
family-planning funds,'' Boxer said.
Republican senator Sam Brownback said U.S. taxpayers should
not be required to subsidize organizations involved in
abortions. He is mounting a long-shot bid for the 2008
Republican presidential nomination and is focusing his
attention on the party's base of social conservatives.
gut-check issue about where you stand on life ... where you
stand on whether or not we should be using taxpayer funds
for abortion,'' Brownback said.
The vote to
overturn the so-called Mexico City policy, named after the
population conference where former president Ronald Reagan
announced it, was expected.
But by a
48-45 vote, Brownback narrowly won a bid aimed at
continuing Bush administration policy barring U.S.
contributions to the U.N. Population Fund because of
aid provided to China, whose population-control
program relies on coerced abortions.
The overall bill
would cut Bush's chief foreign aid program to help
emerging democracies. It also would funnel more money to
fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria around the
Bush requested $3
billion for the Millennium Challenge Corp., a program
that assists countries in putting in place economic and
political reforms. That total would fall to $1.2
billion under the Senate bill. The administration has
been slow to spend earlier money for the program.
measure would boost Bush's $4.2 billion request for the
global HIV/AIDS account by $940 million. Lawmakers are
adding $590 million to the administration's request
for a global fund to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and
malaria, enough money to almost triple it.
however, the Senate would cut Bush's request for foreign aid
and the State Department budget by about $700 million,
transferring money to domestic accounts favored on
The bill also
provides military aid to familiar allies in the Middle
East. Israel would receive $2.4 billion, while Egypt
receives $1.3 billion. Afghanistan would receive about
$1.1 billion for humanitarian assistance and
But the Senate
joined the House in denying the administration's $456
million request for aid to Iraq; $2.8 billion in Iraq
reconstruction aid provided in May has yet to be