July 9, 2008
Senate move to force vote on PEPFAR fizzles
Arizona Senator among few to stall $50 billion bill to fund Bush legacy program that fights HIV and malaria.
Breaking news, Wednesday, July 9, on HIV legislation stalled in the US Senate for weeks. A source in Washington emailed me this afternoon, saying:
A few minutes ago [Senate leader] Reid brought it [PEPFAR reauthorization] to the Senate floor...He said he had 17 signatures on a petition in favor of the bill. He sounded very determined and insistent and fed up with the delays. Then [Senator] Kyl objected, so Reid has filed for cloture, which will be voted on Friday morning. We are very disapponted at Kyl's action. Every day, AIDS kills about 6000 people and infects another 7000, so delay is the last thing we need. Kyl's delays have hurt President Bush's leadership at the G8 Summit.
What does this mean?
Jon Kyl, the junior senator from Arizona, pretty much has sterling conservative credentials and a "solidly conservative voting record" in the words of the Almanac of American Politics. So what is his beef with the reauthorization of PEPFAR, perhaps the most relatively untarnished legacy program of the Bush administration?
Certainly, sticker shock and mission creep are legit concerns. But here's some op-ed commentary, published in the Tuscon Citizen:
Yet despite the program's widespread support and irrefutable success, Kyl and a handful of Republicans think the price tag of $50 billion over five years is too high.
It would be one thing for legislators thing to balk at expanding a program that had not delivered its intended results, but quite another to stop one that works.
PEPFAR works. PEPFAR has been a model of humanitarian assistance for all the world to see. Some call it the greatest triumph of American foreign policy since the Marshall plan.
In these contentious legislative times, the PEPFAR debate in Washington has been an exercise in compromise, with lawmakers putting humanity above partisanship.
Both parties in Congress and the White House have put aside differences over how the money ought to be spent because they place the value and potential of this program above partisan gain.
But as long as a group of recalcitrant senators continue to block this bill, they take away an opportunity for the United States to exercise global leadership and save countless lives.
Time is running out. Sen. Kyl must see reason and clear the way for PEPFAR's reauthorization to give the president more credible talking points in Japan.
Opponents of the bill have yet to persuasively explain their objections to this legislation or put forward a reasonable way forward. Senator Kyl and others who oppose PEPFAR own an explanation on why stalling this admitted expensive (and by the way successful) program makes sense.