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AIDS Action Weekly Update

November 8, 1996

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.

Clinton Wins Second Term

As expected, President Bill Clinton was victorious in his bid to be re-elected as president of the United States. The November 5th win makes Clinton the first Democratic president to be elected to a second term since Franklin Roosevelt. While the victory was decisive, with 379 electoral votes, Clinton garnered barely half of the popular vote, 49 percent. Candidate Robert Dole won 41 percent of the popular vote, while Ross Perot managed eight percent. Voter turnout for this election was surprisingly low, perhaps a reflection of the nation's apathy. Some of the priority issues facing Clinton in his second term include the balanced budget which will include reform of Medicare, tax initiatives, health care, trade, technology research, utility regulation, and displaced workers. These issues are challenging on their own, but Clinton will be working under the burden of ethical charges against his campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) regarding campaign financing along with unresolved matters including the Whitewater investigation, travelgate, and the FBI file debacle. While AIDS remains a priority issue for this Administration, the President's leverage in facilitating progressive policy action on AIDS and other issues could be greatly diminished by the difficulties awaiting him in the form of the ethical charges against his administration and from the Republican-controlled 105th Congress.

GOP Retains Control Of Congress

The election also resulted in the GOP maintaining control of both houses of Congress. The Republican advantage increased in the Senate by two seats, with a third seat still undetermined. The Senate is likely to be more conservative in the 105th Congress, as several of the new Democrats lean toward the party's right wing, and several very conservative Republicans are replacing more moderate predecessors. Notably, two new Republican senators, Sam Brownback (R-KS) who replaces Bob Dole, and Jeffrey Sessions (R-AL) who replaces Democrat Howell Heflin, come from the right wing of the Republican party and have strong affiliations with the Christian Right. In addition, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), who has spoken out against increases for AIDS funding and voted against reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, was re-elected.

In the House, Republicans maintained their majority status, but lost about ten seats. The breakdown of the 104th Congress included 235 Republicans, 198 Democrats, and one Independent, Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who generally votes with the Democrats. The 105th Congress breakdown so far will have 225 Republicans, 205 Democrats, one conservative Independent, and the Independent Rep. Sanders. Four races are still outstanding. One of these includes that of Representative Robert Dornan (R-CA) and Loretta Sanchez. Representative Dornan, the outspoken anti-gay sponsor of an amendment to remove HIV-positive service members from the military, is leading by a little over 200 votes as of this writing. The status of his race may not be decided until early next week. The other three outstanding races will be decided in a December 10th runoff. Overall it appears that the House will be slightly more moderate this session given the loss of ten Republican seats. However, the House leadership will still be controlled by the right wing of the Republican party.

What The Election Means To The AIDS Community

The losses in the Senate of moderates Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), former chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and Mark Hatfield (R-OR), former chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee are significant. The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which has two Democratic and one Republican seat open, has jurisdiction over the expected National Institutes of Health reauthorization, potential Food and Drug Administration reform, reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, the Ryan White CARE Act, HIV prevention, and federal substance abuse and public health programs. The possibility of Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) assuming the chair position of this committee could provide some relief to the AIDS community as he is more progressive than Kassebaum and very supportive on most AIDS policy issues. The likely replacement for Hatfield as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee is Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). While Senator Stevens is not overtly hostile to AIDS programs, his Senate career does not reflect that health or social issues are priorities for him. There are two vacancies, one Democrat and one Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senators William Roth (R-DE) and Pat Moynihan (D-NY) will likely continue to serve as chair and ranking member respectively of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, and taxes.

On the House side, there do not appear to be any changes in the leadership of key committees that deal with AIDS issues. Representatives Bob Livingston (R-LA), John Porter (R-IL), and Jerry Lewis (R-CA) will all continue their leadership posts on the Appropriations Committees as will Tom Bliley (R-VA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), and Rick Lazio (R-NY) on the key authorizing committees. There are, however, four Republican and six Democratic vacancies on the full Appropriations Committee including one Republican and one Democrat on the VA-HUD Subcommittee. Several seats are open on the Commerce Committee including one Republican and two Democrats on the Health and Environment Subcommittee. Vacancies also exist on Rules, Ways and Means, and the Budget Committees. Look to future updates for further information on the 105th Congress.

For more information contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.