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Senate Committee Approves PEPFAR Reauthorization Bill

On March 13, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved, 18-3, S. 2731, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008. A similar bill, H.R. 5501, was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 27 (see The Source, 2/29/08).

Sponsored by Chair Joseph Biden (D-DE), the bill would authorize $50 billion through FY2013 for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR’s current authorization (P.L. 108-25), which authorized $15 billion over five years, expires at the end of FY2008.

“The bill removes most earmarks in law that set forth the percentages that should be devoted to treatment, to care, and to prevention,” said Sen. Biden. “We should let our professionals in the field, and their local partners, tailor their responses to local conditions. The only earmark retained is a 10 percent allocation for orphans and vulnerable children, for which there appears to be universal support. We chose to eliminate earmarks to maximize flexibility, but we recognize it is imperative that priorities, such as antiretroviral treatment, are maintained. That’s why we have required a timetable and yearly reports on progress in providing treatment.”

Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) said, “I believe that we have an excellent bill before us today that will preserve the best aspects of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and expand U.S. efforts to stem the tide of these diseases worldwide…The $50 billion figure is based on what we believe can be spent efficiently and effectively in the years ahead. It presumes that funding will gradually increase over the coming five-year period…I understand that some members would spend less than $50 billion, while others would spend more. But this is a reasonable target that has emerged from good faith negotiations between Congress and the White House. I believe it will maximize the humanitarian and foreign policy benefits of the PEPFAR program.”

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