Decisive Obama win, Democrat House and Senate gains set stage for next global health steps

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President Obama’s win Tuesday means plans to follow a global AIDS blueprint due to be released World AIDS Day remain on track. The “Mexico City Policy” restricting how U.S. family planning dollars could be spent overseas, reversed by President Obama, which Gov. Romney had promised to reinstate, will remain off the books. It remains to be seen however, if Obama’s victory will be seen as a mandate that will allow the funding commitment to back the blueprint up, with a decisive win of 303 electoral votes and almost 3 million more votes nationwide than his opponent Mitt Romney.  The election outcome in Florida is still unclear and votes are still being counted in many states so the popular vote tally is a moving target.

Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate and will welcome two additional Democratic senators and the possibility of expanding their voting block to 55 with the addition of newly elected Senator Angus King from Maine who ran as an independent.  Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont was re-elected and he already votes with the Democratic caucus.  It will be a month or two before there is clarity on the Senate leads for key committees with jurisdiction over global health and HIV and TB in particular.  There is an opening for the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and it has been reported that Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA) may assume this role.  This would be good news for global health because Sen. Murray has a strong interest in this area and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a key constituent of hers.  It has been widely reported that Sen. John Kerry is interested in succeeding Hillary Clinton to become the next Secretary of State, which would open up the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with its jurisdiction over PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and other global health and development programs.  Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking Republican on this committee and longtime PEPFAR advocate, lost his primary race and will be retiring, leaving open the top Republican slot.

The House of Representatives will remain in Republican hands with a gain of about a half dozen seats for the Democrats.  At press time, there are still a handful of House races nationwide that have not been called.  We do know that there will be a change at the helm of the House Foreign Relations Committee.  The chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is relinquishing this post and the ranking Democratic member, Howard Berman, (D-CA) lost a hard fought race to fellow Democrat, Brad Sherman as a result of redistricting.  Stay tuned to this site for updates.

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