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Democrats Fail in Bid to Add $1 Billion to Bush AIDS Program - 2003-07-24

Democrats in Congress have been unsuccessful in their attempts to add money to legislation that will fund the first year of President Bush's global AIDS initiative.

House Democrats used every legislative tool at their disposal, including legislative delaying tactics, to restore $1 billion to a 2004 bill providing money for key foreign aid priorities, including the president's AIDS initiative.

In his State of the Union Address last January, President Bush proposed a $15 billion program for AIDS treatment and prevention over the next five years.

However, a House appropriations committee submitted foreign aid legislation that leaves the AIDS effort $1 billion short of a $3 billion goal for the fiscal year that begins in October.

On the House floor late Wednesday, Democrats tried desperately to restore funds by, among other things, moving money from other administration priorities such as the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).

"HIV-AIDS has taken the lives of over three million people, and newly-infected five million more in the last year," said California Democrat Maxine Waters. "The president and Congress promised the world community that we would spend $3 billion per year to fight this devastating disease. I'm tired of scratching, I'm tired of begging! I'm tired of trying to have to leverage everything possible, but I'm going to continue to do it along with my colleagues. Because fair is fair, ladies and gentlemen. We need the money, our people are dying."

Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe, chairman of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, rejected charges the Bush administration is not following through with commitments.

"This program, this new initiative of the president, needs some time to get up and running. We are doing everything that I believe should be done this year," he said. "Is it enough? No, it is not enough. But it is what we can do, and what is reasonable to do, given the state of the problem."

The debate over AIDS funding was part of House consideration of "foreign operations" legislation to pay for key assistance programs. Democrats used delaying tactics on the House floor in an effort to force Republicans to accept additional funding for AIDS.

Without the additional billion dollars sought by Democrats for 2004, U.S. spending for the global AIDS initiative in the new fiscal year would be about $2 billion.

The Bush administration has sought increased contributions for the battle against AIDS from European countries.

Key administration officials come to Capitol Hill Thursday to consult with House lawmakers on Africa policies, including the AIDS initiative.

However, most of the focus is expected to be on Liberia and the still-unanswered question of how the United States may send troops to help restore order there as part of a multi-national force.