Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter that reviews what is happening in Washington on AIDS policy issues each week. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at the e-mail address listed below.
President's FY 97 Budget Released
Federal AIDS care, prevention and research programs receive increases in funding under the White House FY 97 federal budget which was released Tuesday, March 19 in spite of the uncertainty of FY 96 funding. While AIDS advocates applaud these increases, they are quite concerned about the funding request for Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) and the $59 billion cut to Medicaid over seven years. The $171 million request for HOPWA is the same as the FY 95 post-rescission funding level. Because HOPWA is a formula grant program, this figure results in a decrease in funding due to the increased number of jurisdictions eligible to receive HOPWA funds each year. The cuts to Medicaid serve to undermine a program upon which more than half of all Americans living with HIV/AIDS now rely for basic health care and life-saving drugs. The requests for the Ryan White CARE Act and the AIDS Education and Training Centers represent increases to the estimated FY 96 appropriations for these programs of $99.1 million and $10.3 million respectively. Requests for AIDS prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and research at the National Institutes of Health represent respective increases of $33.6 million and $24.1 million above their FY 96 allocations.
Omnibus Appropriations Bill
To Be Complete Next Week
A second week-long Continuing Resolution (H.J.Res.165) was passed in Congress March 21 to continue funding in programs which have not been signed into law through March 29. Both houses of Congress have passed their versions of the Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R.3019) which will go to conference next week. Both bills contain spending increases for the Ryan White CARE Act ($23.5 million) and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which is funded under Title II of the CARE Act ($52 million), while continuing to flat fund Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS ($171 million) and cutting funding for the AIDS Education and Training Centers by $10.3 million for a total of $6 million.
Differences between the bills include the Senate bill's conditions clause for release of the ADAP funds and the Dornan repeal provision, and the House version's Istook language and Section 507. The Istook language in the House bill requires that any nonprofit organization which receives federal grants report all of its advocacy activities. Section 507 is an Istook type of provision which requires any organization that sends written communiques to Congress or the executive branch regarding a particular federal program to disclose in the communique the amount of federal and private funding it receives for that program. Both of these provisions would place an extreme administrative burden on community-based organizations. Language to repeal the Dornan provision was contained in an amendment to the Senate bill offered by Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR); the amendment passed on a voice vote. These differences will prove to be hotly contested conference issues. Another potential conference issue is the possible offering of an amendment to explicitly restore the budget authority to the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health.
Ryan White Conference
Set For Next Week
The Ryan White CARE Act, which passed both houses of Congress last year has been set for conference March 27. Contentious conference issues include the funding formula for Titles I and II, and the testing issue. AIDS advocates are supportive of the Kassebaum amendment which would establish a discretionary grant program with non-CARE Act funds to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for counseling and voluntary HIV testing of pregnant women in the eleven states with the highest rate of perinatal HIV transmission. The Coburn-Waxman amendment which AIDS advocates as well as most pediatric and women's advocates are staunchly opposed to involves phased-in mandatory HIV testing of newborns and/or pregnant women. House conferees are Representatives Thomas Bliley (R-VA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Gerry Studds (D-MA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA). On the Senate side, conferees are Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Bill Frist (R-TN), Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and James Jeffords (R-VT).
House Health Insurance Bills
Set For Floor Consideration
The House Commerce Committee approved 38-0 the Health Insurance Availability and Affordability Act (H.R.3070), March 20. This legislation is one of three health insurance reform measures which will be combined into a health care package in the Rules Committee next Tuesday, March 26. Floor consideration could begin as early as next Thursday, March 28. Democrats opposed to the medical savings accounts provision in one of the House bills are expected to offer the Kassebaum-Kennedy health insurance reform bill, which is sponsored in the House by Representative Marge Roukema (R-NJ), as a substitute on the floor. The Kassebaum-Kennedy bill (S.1028) currently has 55 cosponsors. The House companion bill, H.R.2893 has 188 cosponsors.
Medicaid Reform Not Likely
To Be Attached To Debt Ceiling
Although there was no effort to attach the National Governor's Association plans to reform Medicaid and welfare to the debt ceiling legislation passed two weeks ago, many GOP supporters of the proposals remain hopeful that they will be written into legislative language in time to be incorporated into the long term debt ceiling extension bill that is likely to be acted upon before March 29. This possibility, however is unlikely, and at the moment it appears as though only plans to cut back the Social Security earnings test will be attached to the debt ceiling. There is a chance that the Medicaid and welfare proposals will be considered separately and not remain a package. Many Democrats who find the welfare reform plan more palatable than the Medicaid restructuring proposal hope to consider the bills separately.
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