The Senate unanimously approved an amendment restoring $4 billion to the international affairs budget on Wednesday, an effort led by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The Senate action boosts the international affairs account to $53.8 billion, the level requested by President Barack Obama. It was a major coup for global health advocates, who feared that without the additional money, vital HIV/AIDS and TB programs would be devastated.
Kerry made an eloquent speech on the floor, in which he talked about the consequences of abandoning the global fight against HIV/AIDS, among other things.
“We know that PEPFAR has won America friends and allies across Africa and the world we know that AIDS contributes to failed states, not to mention incalculable human misery amongst the sick and dying and the orphans they leave behind—and that is why our national interest and our moral interest demand that we deliver on our commitments at a moment of crisis,” he said.
Here’s a link to the full statement: http://kerry.senate.gov/cfm/record.cfm?id=310950
The budget battle now moves to a different arena. The House is expected to approve $48.5 billion for foreign affairs, 10 percent under Obama’s request and a cut from this year’s funding level.
A House-Senate conference committee will have to reconcile the different versions. So it’s vital to call your lawmakers and urge support of the Senate’s more generous proposal. As Kerry noted, such a deep cut to the international affairs budget could seriously harm programs like PEPFAR.