PEPFAR: cloture, amendments, and . . . ?

Next up on the PEPFAR agenda . . . dealing with amendments.  A Kaiser Network article from this morning reviews what happened on Friday:

The Senate on Friday voted 65-3 to consider legislation (S 2731) that would reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief this week, the AP/Forbes reports. As the vote was taking place, the Bush administration issued a statement in support of the legislation that said PEPFAR is “creating strong partnerships and allies in countries where five years ago AIDS threatened to destroy entire generations” (Abrams, AP/Forbes, 7/11). […]

[Majority Leader Harry] Reid on Friday said that 10 amendments offered by Republicans would be allowed during debate next week, including proposals to reduce the funding levels. He added that he is confident the legislation could be passed in the Senate to allow for negotiations with the House on a final compromise version.

The PEPFAR legislation as it is now would lift the current ban on giving HIV+ individuals visas to come into the US.  One amendment, proposed by Sen. Sessions, would get rid of this provision (so travel bans would stay in place).  Another proposed amendment, coming from Jim DeMint (the guy who started the most recent round of tortuous proceedings), would cut the funding for PEPFAR from $50 billion to $35 billion.

For more on all this, check out this post from the New York Times politics blog, or this post from the blog Politics and Policy of HIV/AIDS.

For commentary, we turn again to our trusty Washington correspondent — that is, my pal Katy, who works for a non-profit in DC.  Katy wants me to make sure I say that she offers “very unprofessional analysis.”  That might be a good thing though, because she’s a lot better at explaining some of this stuff than anything I’ve found online.*  For I now present a transcript of parts of our conversation (over google chat):

h.e.g.:  So, do they vote on which amendments get attached?
K:  Yeah, they vote on each of the amendments, and if, say, the travel ban thing gets added, a lot of people won’t vote for it, so the whole bill dies.
h.e.g.:  So, if 60 people vote for the amendment about the travel ban, that amendment gets added. They would then vote for the bill, with that amendment, and some people would vote against the whole thing (PEPFAR and travel-related amendment), and then…no PEPFAR?
K:  Uh, essentially. some will vote for the amendment just to kill the whole bill.  […]
K:  PEPFAR was supposed to sail through, no real objections, no big deal. But now that both sides have dug in their heels, it’s going to be a lot tougher.  […]
h.e.g.:  If they don’t pass the whole thing now, is PEPFAR dead forever, or could it be revived later?
K:  Oh, it’ll probably be revived later in a different form, with less funds and more regulations. But probably not till after the election.

So, that’s how things are looking.  Basically, a few senators want to add amendments to the PEPFAR bill.  Some of these, if added, would be offensive enough to PEPFAR’s supporters that they would vote against the bill itself in order to prevent the amendments from getting through.  (The issue of the travel bans, for example, has proved very contentious.)

I’m obviously hoping that PEPFAR gets passed, and without any amendments that would lessen its impact.  This legislation has been held up long enough.  Further delays will cause potentially deadly problems for the countless people around the world for whom PEPFAR funding is literally a matter of life and death.

Keep checking back here for more on PEPFAR.  I’ll keep updating as I hear more.

* My comprehension of the American legislative process is pretty dismal. In my own defense, I grew up in Canada.

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~ by h.e.g. on July 14, 2008.

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