Appropriators approve sustained global health, boost to TB, increased research funding, reject expanded global gag rule

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“Now is not the time to back off,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)

Senate appropriators today approved spending for the coming fiscal year that would continue current funding levels for global health programs, add $2 billion to funding for the National Institutes of Health, including by maintaining the Fogarty International Center and its worldwide research and training partnerships  at $74.3 million, and adding  $20 million to international tuberculosis programming through redirected Ebola funding.

“We did right by these accounts,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who chairs the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee that submitted the international spending bill. “We’re inside the 10-yard line in terms of the fight against AIDS in a bunch of African countries. Now is not the time to back off. Let’s pour it on.”

Appropriations Committee ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), however, noted that foreign aid spending still falls 4 percent below 2017 levels and offered an amendment to add $2 billion in additional funding for USAID and the State Department, including an additional $1 billion for global health. Additional funding would include $500 million for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to deliver the antiretroviral medicine that prevents illness and transmission of HIV, and $500 million to strengthen countries’ capacities to detect, prevent, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. While Sen. Graham voiced support for the intent of increasing global health spending, he opposed the amendment, which failed with 14 voting for, and 15 voting against it.

An amendment offered by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would repeal the  global gag rule recently reinstated and expanded by the Trump administration to restrict funding for women’s health services, and restore 2017 funding levels for international family planning efforts fared better. That amendment passed with Senators Collins and Murkowski’s support, by a vote of 16 to 15, but, Sen. Graham noted, the move is unlikely to find support in the House.

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