Senate moves on PEPFAR Reauthorization

The Senate voted 65-3 on a cloture motion on PEPFAR reauthorization last Friday. Here’s a story in today’s Times about PEPFAR reauthorization. More details on Kaiser.

Looks like Sen. Jim Demint made an ass of himself before his colleagues on Friday when he insisted on a Friday evening procedural vote on cloture and then didn’t show up. He called for cutting the bill’s pricetag down to $35bn.

In so doing, he likely ensured that the full $50 billion gets appropriated (which was more than what the President wanted). The bill no longer has a mandate that 55% of funding be spent on treatment (which was part of the previous PEPFAR authorizing language and what the bloc of holdout Senators wanted). The legislation leaves it a little vague and says more than half will be spent on treatment.

While this is good news, the bill hasn’t passed yet. Debate is this week. Republicans are offering a series of amendments to try to divert the spending for domestic purposes.

Here is an excerpt on Demint’s gift to his colleagues.

After finally breaking a procedural logjam, the Senate this week will move ahead with a $50 billion AIDS initiative that has the support of Democrats, Republicans and the White House. It would seem like a sure bet – except for Senator Jim DeMint.

Mr. DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, forced the Senate last week to take a rare Friday evening procedural vote in order to begin debate on the legislation that seeks to step up AIDS treatment and prevention efforts in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. He then missed the vote he had instigated, provoking scattered boos from the floor – an occurrence more typical of the House than the Senate.

In one of the chief challenges to the AIDS bill, Mr. DeMint is scheduled to offer a proposal to reduce the five-year cost of the legislation to $35 billion. He has complained that Democrats were unfairly trying to limit efforts to change the bill. Given that both Republicans and Democrats were very unhappy with his decision to force them to take a Friday vote he then missed, it is hard to envision a successful outcome for his proposal.

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