This vote was on an amendment by Joe Barton, R-Texas, that would remove language in the bill prohibiting funding under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program from being reduced more than between 8.4 percent and 13.4 percent depending on the geographic area. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education in fiscal 2008.
Barton said he was one of the lawmakers who helped broker the last reauthorization of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which distributed funding partially based on where AIDS was proliferating. In other words, areas where the numbers of AIDS infections were growing would receive more funding. The underlying bill changes the formulas to prevent certain areas from automatically receiving less funding when their rates of AIDS infections decline. Barton’s amendment would remove that provision, allowing the original formulas – which would take money away from some areas -- to take effect.
“What we were trying to do was make more funds available to those areas of the country where the epidemic was still prevalent and growing, and less funds on a discretionary basis where the epidemic had once been centered but was now thankfully not as prevalent. The pending bill before us changes that formula,” Barton said. “The effect of the pending legislation that I am attempting to strike, if we don’t strike it, two cities will benefit, Newark, New Jersey, and San Francisco, California. Every other city that currently receives AIDS funding and HIV funding will be disproportionately disadvantaged.”
Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., said AIDS continues to be the second-leading cause of premature death in the San Francisco Bay area. She said the numbers would be even worse were it not for the improved treatments made possible by programs such as the one under consideration.
“Therefore, it is not the right time for the people in the San Francisco-Bay Area to have any cuts in their AIDS/HIV programs, because it is starting to work but it isn’t working well enough,” Woolsey said. “This amendment will recklessly and irresponsibly put the lives of many of our constituents at risk. The very idea truly astounds me, the very idea that these lifesaving programs would be cut, that there would even be an offer to cut them while we are spending $10 billion a month to occupy Iraq just is beyond my comprehension.
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 196-230. Of Republicans present, 186 voted for the amendment and 12 voted against it. Of Democrats present, 10 voted for the amendment and 218 voted against it. The end result is that the bill went forward with its language intact ensuring that funding for the Ryan White AIDS program would not drop below certain levels in certain geographic areas.