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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 40
House Republicans slash AIDS funding, triple money to defend DOMA
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House Republicans slash AIDS funding, triple money to defend DOMA

By Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Less than one week after the House Appropriations Committee proposed slashing nearly $33 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) along with a $1 billion cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has tripled the House budget for defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee released a draft fiscal year 2012 budget bill on Sept. 19 that calls for substantial cuts in funds for the CDC and the Prevention and Public Health office that pay for HIV prevention programs.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for AIDS programs.

Rehberg's bill would restore federal funds for controversial 'abstinence-only until marriage' HIV prevention programs supported by former President George W. Bush.

The draft bill also includes a provision that would ban federal funding for needle exchange programs aimed at curtailing the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users.

The Obama administration eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only HIV prevention programs while Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress, saying evidence-based studies showed that they were ineffective in curtailing the spread of HIV.

President Obama and the Democratic Congress also lifted a longstanding congressional ban on federal funds for needle-exchange programs.

Administration officials pointed to studies showing that providing clean syringes to intravenous drug abusers reduced their HIV infection rate. Officials said the studies also showed that clean needle exchanges did not result in more people becoming IV drug users.

The House Republicans' measure also calls for zero increase in funding for Ryan White Act programs, including the financially struggling AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

With more than 8,500 people in nine states on waiting lists for life-saving AIDS drugs funded under ADAP, AIDS advocacy groups have declared the program in crisis, saying people with HIV could die if more federal funds aren't allocated to the program.

Obama's proposed budget includes a $63.9 million increase in overall Ryan White funding.

Meanwhile, Republican Speaker John Boehner's office released details of a newly modified contract between the General Counsel to the House of Representatives and former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who has been hired by the House to defend DOMA since the Justice Department says it will no longer do so.

The new contract sets a cap of $750,000 for DOMA-related legal fees, but allows fees to be raised up to $1.5 million.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the House sponsor of a bill to repeal DOMA, denounced the move.

'In the current climate of Republican-sponsored deficit hysteria, draconian spending cuts, and an ongoing recession & it is shocking and supremely hypocritical for the Republican leadership to spend additional taxpayer dollars on the unwarranted, unconstitutional, and unnecessary defense of DOMA,' Nadler said in a statement.

'It seems that the only jobs program the House is creating is one for high-priced lawyers to defend an unconscionable law.'

Seattle-area Congressman Jim McDermott (D) was also critical of Boehner.

'I'm appalled that the Speaker would pay over a million taxpayer dollars to defend a discriminatory law like DOMA,' McDermott told SGN.

'He shouldn't be spending time and money defending a law that the Administration and the courts have found unconstitutional. Our resources should be focused on jobs, foreclosures, and the economy - not on institutionalizing discrimination.'

An appropriations subcommittee in the Democratic-controlled Senate has approved its own budget bill that does not cut needle exchange funding and omits the abstinence-only provisions included in the Republican-sponsored House bill.

Although the Obama administration's proposed budget calls for small budget increases for most HIV/AIDS programs, the bill approved by the Senate subcommittee contains no funding increases whatsoever.

The subcommittee did approve a $15 million increase for the Ryan White program, however.

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