Rep. Barbara Lee: “When it comes to saving lives PEPFAR is a clear example of how we come together to do just that”
By the time the House of Representatives began to take up the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013 Tuesday afternoon, the end was not in doubt. All the same, once lawmakers there were done, with a unanimous vote, guaranteeing the continuation of this country’s largest, most ambitious, and most powerful, humanitarian response, they had taken a giant step forward.
The bill will extend authorization not only for funding the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, but for contributing to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Citing pragmatism and pride, compassion and common sense, speaking generously to, and of each other, Representatives who included longtime AIDS fighters — Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — along with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) who introduced the bill to the House, rose to explain why it mattered.
“It was just over a decade ago that AIDS threatened to decimate an entire generation of men and women and children around the world, and particularly in Africa,” Royce said. “Without access to lifesaving treatment there was no incentive to get tested. Without testing it was impossible to detect and prevent new infections.”
In addition to death and suffering, AIDS threatened to decimate societies as well, leaving them vulnerable to crime and extremism, he continued, noting the United States’ practical interest in confronting the epidemic worldwide. But the United States couldn’t confront it alone, Royce added, pointing to the legislation’s continued 33 percent limit on U.S. Global Fund contributions that can leverage greater contributions from other donors. The Global Fund’s next replenishment conference will occur in the first week of December in Washington, DC, he pointed out, “So this bill is time-sensitive.”
Engel pointed to the Global Fund cap as well, before yielding his time to bill cosponsor and longtime AIDS response advocate Lee.
” . . .oftentimes we wonder if there is bipartisanship in this body,” she said, thanking her colleagues on both sides of the aisle, “Well I think that once again, when it comes to saving lives, PEPFAR is a clear example of how we work together to do just that.”
It was however a beginning, rather than an end, as Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) pointed out, agreeing with the others, but adding a caution.
“This bill will pass without a vote against it, I am quite sure. But the real question is: What do we put in the budget? Because if we don’t maintain what is going on in the world today, we will lose. We will go backward.”