This vote was on an amendment by Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., that would prohibit the spending bill from changing the formula that determines how federal HIV/AIDS funding is distributed. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds most domestic agencies in fiscal 2009.
Enzi said there is a provision in the spending bill that will dramatically change the way the formulas for determining HIV/AIDS funding have worked for the past three years, to the detriment of some cities and states. The changes, in essence, ensure that cities that have received money in the past would not receive less than they are accustomed to receiving, even if their rate of new HIV/AIDS cases have not risen accordingly.
"It allows larger cities to receive more funding simply because they received more money in the past. The cities that had a high number of people with AIDS before 2006 will benefit, and those that have seen an increase in HIV and AIDS since 2006 will not be awarded the funding they need. Sadly, larger cities, most notably San Francisco, will receive more money than other cities for all the wrong reasons," Enzi said. "That additional funding is not based on the number of people they are treating or how many new cases they have. As a hold-harmless provision, it is related to what that city has received before. Let me expand on that. If your city’s problem is increasing, under the omnibus, you will get less money. Now, if your city’s problem is decreasing, according to the bill, you will get more money. If we are giving cities with more people with HIV/AIDS less funding, and cities with less people with HIV/AIDS more funding, how fair is that?"
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said when the AIDS funding bill was first passed in 2006, it laid out a formula that was based on incorrect figures of infections. In fact, the infection rates ended up being drastically higher than scientists had originally predicted, but the formulas have stayed the same. Harkin said the language in the underlying bill would ensure that municipalities, including places like San Francisco where the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is great, would not have their funding undercut by formulas that use inaccurate accounting measures. He said some cities such as San Francisco would otherwise be facing a 25 percent cut in their funding.
"We cannot afford to have these cities take that 25-percent cut. If we want to go after the HIV/AIDS, we have to go where the people are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. That is what this bill does," Harkin said.
The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 42-53. Every Republican present voted for the amendment. All but four Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the Senate rejected an amendment that would have prohibited any changes to the way HIV/AIDS funding is distributed, thus preventing certain large cities from seeing precipitous cuts to their funding.