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U.S. Senator Frist Changes AIDS Strategy; Stops Backing Bill He Wrote
  Newsday (New York City)
02.13.03; Anne Q. Hoy
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has withdrawn his support from his AIDS bill, which was passed by the Senate last July, and put his name behind a White House draft bill that critics say would greatly weaken his earlier bill. President George W. Bush has unveiled a $15 billion plan to fight AIDS overseas. A copy of that draft bill shows that it would strip all specific funding levels for AIDS programs named in the bill, render toothless mandates in the Senate-passed bill by swapping the word "shall" for "should," and remove all congressional oversight mechanisms. The change drawing the most fire would eliminate specific funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The bill authored by Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) set aside $2.2 billion for the Global Fund in fiscal 2003 and 2004. That bill died in Congress. Frist's new draft bill strikes the 2004 level for the Global Fund and replaces it with "such sums as may be necessary."
Senate Democrats expressed particular concern about the bill's lack of specific funding for the Global Fund. "One of the things the resulting product has to have is a serious commitment to the global AIDS fund, because that's how you leverage a lot of money from a lot of other sources," Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said.
Bob Stevenson, Frist's spokesperson, said the senator is merely trying to work with the White House to produce a bill that conforms with Bush's State of the Union AIDS plan. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would try to craft a bipartisan alternative. Lugar said he does not think Frist abandoned the goals of last year's bill but is "attempting to coordinate his thinking with that of the White House." Democrats, including Kerry, plan to fight for specific funding for the Global Fund.
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