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The $50 billion bipartisan AIDS boondoggle

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 17, 2008 03:43 PM

The Left is cheering Senate reauthorization of the bipartisan global AIDS bill. Supported by President Bush and the Republicans, it triples spending on HIV/AIDS to $48 billion over five years–with $18 billion more in spending than Bush had requested.

Only 16 Senators voted against the massive spending package that comes in the midst of the stimulus-palooza frenzy and the continued dysfunctional state of federal entitlement programs. Here’s the roll call vote:

Is this the right time to be heaping the world’s AIDS health care bill on American taxpayers? The White House and the Democrat leadership apparently think so.

“The US Senate has given a major boost to a program to combat AIDS and malaria around the world, voting to triple funding for a cause championed by President George W. Bush.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 80 to 16 to authorize $48 billion over the next five years – $18 billion dollars more than Bush had requested – for the program, which also includes funds to battle tuberculosis. ‘This bill will expand American leadership on global health and foster hope around the world. …’ said Paul Zeitz, Executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

AP adds that the statement “…said that when the program was launched in 2003, about 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. Today, the program supports lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment for more than 1.7 million people around the world, he said. It also has supported treatment and prevention programs that have helped HIV-positive women give birth to nearly 200,000 infants who are HIV-free. …

The bill passed by the House in April approved $50 billion, including $5 billion for malaria, $4 billion for tuberculosis and $41 billion for AIDS. Of the AIDS money, a proportion — $2 billion next year — would go to the international Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Actual spending levels still have to be approved in annual appropriations bills.

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate, acceding to arguments that Congress must also address humanitarian issues closer to home, agreed to set aside $2 billion of the $50 billion for American Indian water, health and law enforcement projects. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]

Also in the bill: a provision lifting the long-time HIV/AIDS travel ban.

Compassion comes at a steep cost. Sen. Jeff Sessions cites Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new AIDS/HIV-infected immigrants entering after the travel ban is lifted could cost the government more than $80 million over a 10-year period. And that’s just the start.

“Most people just don’t want to talk about that.”

Nope. Because you’ll risk getting called a bigot or homophobe for daring to bring it up.

***

Hans Bader at Openmarket.org shakes his head at warped priorities (make sure to click through to the post for lots of links):

U.S. immigration law is full of contradictions. On the one hand, U.S. immigration laws keep out skilled immigrants who would help our economy, by sharply limiting the number of H-1B visas, and making legal immigration a very difficult and lengthy process. (Economists overwhelmingly support allowing more skilled immigrants to come to the U.S.)

Yet, simultaneously, Congress has just voted to repeal a ban on AIDS-infected people becoming permanent residents of the U.S., even though the Congressional Budget Office says doing so will cost taxpayers many millions of dollars. Health care costs associated with AIDS often exceed $100,000 per person per year. Permanent residents, like citizens, can be eligible for Medicaid, as well as the many taxpayer-subsidized health-care programs aimed specifically at people with AIDS. (We wrote earlier about the counterproductive effects of some taxpayer-funded AIDS programs overseas).

Meanwhile, an amnesty for illegal aliens is likely in the next Congress, which will have a bigger liberal majority than the current one.

Crikey.

***

Update: Sen. Jon Kyl’s statement…

“I supported PEPFAR when it was authorized five years ago, and because of its success, I would have voted to extend the original funding and policy for another five years. I could have even considered doubling the original authorization to $30 billion as the President requested, but the level of funding provided in this bill was far too excessive for me to support.

“The bill also made a number of bad changes to existing PEPFAR policy, like removing the requirement that at least 55 percent of the money actually goes to the treatment of AIDS patients rather than to corrupt governments.

“The dramatic increase in funding will also come at a time when Americans are feeling pain at the gas pump, in the housing market, and at the grocery store. Is this really the time to ask Americans to spend $48 billion more on foreign aid? Congress must be mindful of its obligations to American citizens before it funds multi-billion dollar programs abroad.

“For the United States to have the resources to continue funding its responsibilities to its citizens and to help others around the globe, we need a strong economy that creates wealth. I can think of a lot of other things we could do with part of the $48 billion to improve our economy so that we would be better able to help others in the future.”

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