HIV/AIDS: House Approves Foreign Relief Bill
In an "unexpected reversal," the House voted yesterday, 216-211, to approve an amendment to the FY 2001 Foreign Operations appropriations bill to provide $225 million for debt relief for developing countries, the Washington Post reports. Lawmakers also supported, 267-156, an amendment to add $42 million for AIDS treatment and prevention efforts overseas (Eilperin, Washington Post, 7/14). In a separate voice vote, the House approved an amendment by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) to increase funding by $10 million, bringing the total level of U.S. international AIDS funding to $254 million for the next fiscal year, more than $52 million than House GOP leaders had originally sought (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 7/14). Many House members said they voted to support the additional funds after "alarming" reports from the 13th International AIDS Conference. "Members of Congress are beginning to feel the outrage of this pandemic," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who introduced the first AIDS funding amendment, said. Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) agreed: "We have a moral responsibility to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It's reached such proportions, it's just out of control." The total funding package still remains far short of President Clinton's earlier proposals for international debt relief, and White House officials have promised a veto of the House foreign aid bill. Nevertheless, the vote yesterday represents a surprising turnaround for a Republican House whose leaders had originally proposed just $69 million to relieve foreign debt burdens. "Debt relief, coupled with certain things we're doing for AIDS, represents the single greatest initiative by the United States to the developing world," House Banking Committee Chair Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) said (Washington Post, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.