The U.S. Senate is close to approving legislation to fight AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis around the world. The House of
Representatives passed the measure earlier this year, and President
Bush is expected to sign it once the Senate gives its final approval.
VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
measure includes efforts aimed at the prevention and treatment of AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis over five years. The bill reauthorizes and
expands a current program, which is due to expire in September.
Bush first proposed the program in his 2003 State of the Union
address. At the time, he sought - and Congress approved - $15 billion
for the initiative. The program has been widely praised for helping to
treat hundreds of thousands of people suffering from AIDS and putting
the United States at the forefront of global efforts to fight the
Senator Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led the debate in support of
the bill. A frequent critic of President Bush, Biden says he has no
dispute with the president over this program.
"I am often
critical of the president's foreign policy and his aid programs," said
Senator Biden. "But the President of the United States, George W. Bush,
deserves great credit. If the president did nothing else in his
administration, this is justification enough for his legacy to be
looked back on favorably because of the phenomenal and dramatic impact
this initiative has and will have on the rest of the world."
top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator
Richard Lugar of Indiana, says there are a number of reasons why he
supports the bill.
"They come down to the saving of hundreds of
thousands of lives, the alleviation of extraordinary suffering on this
earth, and I would simply say from the standpoint of our foreign policy
one of the strongest ways in which the United States has made an impact
on a number of countries in which our public diplomacy or diplomacy of
any sort has not been very successful in the past," said Senator Lugar.
"We make an impact because people in those countries know we care."
Republican conservatives expressed concern that the legislation had
expanded beyond the original intent of President Bush's proposal in
2003. They offered amendments to limit the scope of the bill, but the
measures were voted down Tuesday.
The legislation authorizes
the programs, but does not fund them. The money will have to be
approved by Congress in a separate appropriations bill. Most of the
funding would be spent on aids prevention and treatment, while $5
billion would go toward malaria programs and $4 billion to tuberculosis