2013 in Public Policy: Big Changes
Though the 113th Congress was sworn in just a few weeks ago, EGPAF’s public policy team is already expecting 2013 to be a busy year on Capitol Hill for HIV/AIDS policy.
In addition to both the major domestic and global HIV programs being up for Congressional review, the launch of the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation has sparked a whole new way of thinking about how the U.S. government can contribute to the end of the AIDS epidemic. We were thrilled that ending HIV transmission from mother to child was highlighted as a key component of the Blueprint, and working with Congress and the Administration to implement the Blueprint is a top priority for EGPAF this year.
However, there will be challenges. If scheduled funding cuts (“sequestration”) take place at the end of February, global HIV/AIDS programs could be decreased by as much as 8.2 percent. At a time when we are seeing incredible progress towards the elimination of new pediatric HIV infections and increasing our efforts to better meet the treatment needs of children that are living with HIV, these cuts would be a devastating blow. We are strongly urging Congress to avoid these cuts, which could eliminate HIV/AIDS treatment for more than 276,000 people and PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child-transmission) services for 112,500 HIV-positive women, leading to more than 21,000 infants possibly being born with HIV.
Beyond sequestration, we still face uncertainty around the current fiscal year’s appropriations, even as Congress and the Administration start looking towards fiscal year 2014. Currently, the government is being funded by a continuing resolution that will expire in late March. Congress must enact another continuing resolution through the rest of fiscal year 2013 (through September 30) or approve pending appropriations legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Considering the current fiscal climate, funding for global HIV/AIDS fared remarkably well throughout fiscal year 2013 budget negotiations – in large part because of long-standing bipartisan support for these successful, life-saving programs. We will be working to secure strong Congressional funding for these programs, both to the end of fiscal year 2013 and into fiscal year 2014.
Finally, while President Obama was reelected and the House and Senate remain controlled by the same parties, there are a lot of new faces in key leadership positions that will significantly influence the global HIV/AIDS agenda:
- From the Administration, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will soon be leaving her post, with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) nominated to replace her. He is expected to be confirmed for the position with strong support from his Senate colleagues.
- Turning to the Senate, Sen. Kerry’s departure means that there will be a new chairperson for the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is expected to take the gavel, and will be joined by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) as the new ranking member of the committee.
- The House will also see leadership changes on key committees. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is the new ranking member on the Appropriations committee but will also remain ranking member of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee (the subcommittee that oversees foreign assistance funding, including global health and HIV/AIDS). Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) retains his chairmanship of the full appropriations committee, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) retains her chairwomanship of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.
- The House Foreign Affairs committee also has new leadership in Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) as chair and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) as ranking member, as well about 20 new committee members.
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Katie Coester is Public Policy Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.