White House, GOP Leadership Must Take ‘Lead’ in Convincing Senators To Drop PEPFAR Reauthorization Objections, Editorial Says
The White House and Republican leadership must "take the lead" in convincing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and other Republican senators to "change their minds" about holding up the proposed five-year extension of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a Washington Post editorial says.
The Post says that the reauthorization measure (S 2731) was originally blocked by a group of seven senators led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who objected that the measure would continue a requirement that 55% of PEPFAR money go to treating people with HIV/AIDS, instead of being spent to prevent new infections and for other purposes. Coburn dropped his objections after senators reached a compromise that more than half of U.S. bilateral aid would go to medical care -- "but care is defined expansively," according to the Post.
DeMint and some other senators in the group continued to express concern about the bill's authorization of $50 billion over five years for PEPFAR, blocking unanimous consent to let the bill proceed to the Senate floor, the editorial says. According to the Post, the measure is a "vast expansion" over the $15 billion originally allocated for the initiative and more than the $30 billion President Bush requested for reauthorization, but "this is not a case of throwing good money after bad." Since the program began in 2003, it has provided HIV testing and counseling for more than 33 million people and care for more than 6.6 million, the editorial says, adding that the reauthorization measure would allocate about $13 billion of the $50 billion to fight tuberculosis and malaria.
Increasing PEFPAR funding "would beef up one of the wisest investments the United States has ever made -- in humanitarian terms and in terms of our nation's image abroad," the editorial says, adding that if the White House and Republican leadership "fail" to persuade DeMint and others to drop their objections, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "simply must find the time to pass PEPFAR, even if it means a longer process than he and his colleagues would like," the editorial says. The Post concludes, "If the price of saving lives is a few lost vacation days for Congress, we say: Pay it" (Washington Post, 7/1).