House Rules Committee Takes Action on PEPFAR Reauthorization Bill Ahead of Floor Consideration
POLITICS AND POLICY
The House Rules Committee on Tuesday took action on a bill (HR 5501) that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ahead of floor consideration of the measure, which is scheduled for Wednesday, CQ Today reports (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 4/1). The measure, which was approved in February by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would allocate $50 billion for PEPFAR over the next five years. President Bush had called on Congress to authorize a $30 billion, five-year extension of PEPFAR. The bill also would remove a requirement that at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. It would require "balanced funding" for abstinence, fidelity and condom programs based on evidence in each PEPFAR focus country. In addition, the bill would retain the requirement that PEPFAR recipients pledge opposition to commercial sex work.
The bill would allow groups to use PEPFAR funding for HIV testing and education in family planning clinics but not for contraception or abortion services. The bill also would require reports to Congress if abstinence and fidelity programs compose less than half of country-level spending on programs aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the virus. In addition, the bill would allocate about $9 billion to fight tuberculosis and malaria, which often affect HIV-positive people in Africa. That amount also would underwrite food supplements for people living with HIV/AIDS. The bill would provide loans to women widowed by the disease or ostracized because of their HIV-positive status (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/31).
The Rules Committee on Tuesday approved by voice vote a structured rule (HR 1065) for floor consideration of the bill. During the Rules Committee consideration, Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) attempted to decrease the $50 billion funding amount allocated in the bill to $15 billion and $38 billion, respectively. The committee ruled the representatives' amendments out of order. Any changes to funding levels would "unravel" compromises, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said, adding, "Part of the balance that was achieved with this bill was the funding level."
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) attempted to gain Rules Committee approval to offer an amendment during floor consideration to eliminate a phrase in the bill that some advocates say could remove funding for family planning groups that currently receive PEPFAR money. According to CQ Today, 45 HIV/AIDS groups last week sent a letter to lawmakers in support of such efforts. "The effect of the language as it is could be interpreted to actually restrict access to those services," Jennie Quick -- the government affairs manager at Population Services International, one of the groups that signed the letter -- said. The Rules Committee did not allow the amendment, CQ Today reports.
The Rules Committee also rejected an amendment that would have changed a reference to "health care professionals and workers" to "health care professionals." The committee did approve four amendments to:
- Add Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland as PEPFAR focus countries;
- Include clean water programs in the program;
- Encourage countries to work with historically black colleges to improve their health infrastructures; and
- Expand inspector general authority.
The White House in a policy statement said that it supports the PEPFAR reauthorization bill but hopes to resolve some concerns about provisions in the bill that it says would limit the president's authority to conduct foreign policy (CQ Today, 4/1).