What We're Reading: This Week's Other Budget Debate
July 29, 2011
U.S. Capitol Building
This week in Washington, the focus has been mainly on whether Congress and the administration will reach a compromise to keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt obligations.
But we were reading about another important, yet overshadowed debate occurring on Capitol Hill, also related to the U.S. fulfilling its commitments – this time on global health funding.
On Wednesday, the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee voted to drastically cut the administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI)
– including funding for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – by more than $700 million.
Foundation President and CEO Charles Lyons issued a statement
, saying, “This is exactly the wrong time to reduce funding for lifesaving global health and HIV/AIDS programs.”
Lyons also spoke with Voice of America (VOA)
to emphasize the detrimental impact these cuts could have on global health programs.
“Clinics and hospitals in the thousands would be less equipped, and have less support to provide the kind of services that go on every single day,” he told VOA.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, also spoke out
, saying,“It is deeply troubling that this bill fails to maintain our longstanding tradition of a more bipartisan proposal. Many of the cuts as well as the problematic policy riders would hurt America’s standing on the international stage; impede our ability to save lives and help build healthy, stable societies; diminish our economic prospects; and undermine our national security interests.”
On Wednesday, advocates of global health and other foreign assistance programs were given some hope when Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Authorization Act FY12-13
(opens in PDF).
This bill would authorize full funding for the State Department and USAID to match the level requested by the President for Fiscal Year 2012. It also demonstrated a renewed congressional commitment to global development efforts by specifically stating Congress’s support for the GHI.
The Foreign Policy blog The Cable
interviewed a committee staffer who said, “We thought it important to get this out there as a counterpoint to what was done in the House last week.”
In stark contrast to the Senate bill, its counterpart, H.R. 2583
(opens in PDF) – introduced in the House last week by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – proposed deep cuts to the international affairs budget.
It also attached a number of strict policy provisions and instituted restrictions on aid to several countries. Many of these recommendations were carried over into the House Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that passed on Wednesday.
Hopefully this legislation indicates congressional understanding of the far-reaching impact of foreign assistance programs.
PEPFAR and the Global Health Initiative are critical components in the fight against HIV, and particularly the achievable goal of eliminating pediatric HIV and AIDS throughout the world.
Follow the blog and our advocacy page
in the weeks to come, as we work to increase awareness of the success of global health programs, and the need to continue supporting them.
As the Foundation's President Charles Lyons said, “We cannot afford to reverse the substantial gains we’ve made over the past decade.”
Far too many lives are at stake.
Kati Moore is a Public Policy and Advocacy Associate at the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.