In a rare display of bipartisan unity, the U.S. Senate voted 80-16 Wednesday
to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR
). Originally passed in 2003 and set to expire this September, the White House
credits PEPFAR with delivering antiretroviral drug treatment to 1.7 million people worldwide.
Reflecting the bipartisan support of the program, the top two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heaped praise on the program and the president. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the committee, said the program is “the single most significant thing the president has done.” Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the committee’s ranking member, argued eloquently that PEPFAR benefits U.S. national security and foreign policy. During the floor debate, he made the following statement:
We should understand that our investments in disease prevention programs have yielded enormous foreign policy benefits during the last five years. PEPFAR has helped to prevent instability and societal collapse in a number of at-risk countries; it has stimulated contributions from other wealthy nations to fight AIDS; it has facilitated deep partnerships with a new generation of African leaders; and it has improved attitudes toward the United States in Africa and other regions.The Senate legislation extends the program five years and triples its funding to $48 billion. The bill met with initial opposition from several conservatives, and the Democratic-controlled Senate defeated several Republican amendments earlier this week. The House passed a slightly different version of the legislation in April; differences between the two bills will be resolved in a conference committee.
In my judgment, the dollars spent on this program can be justified purely on the basis of the humanitarian results that we have achieved. But the value of this investment clearly extends to our national security and to our national reputation.