Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today after Senate negotiators reached an agreement in principle on the global HIV/AIDS legislation.
“In 2003, Congress responded to the President’s call to action by creating the global HIV and AIDS program to confront the crisis which has killed more than 30 million Africans since 1982. This bipartisan effort has already helped tens of millions of Africans affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I saw the critical need for this effort when I traveled to South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Botswana in 2002. These countries have been ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. Nine southern African countries have infection rates above 10 percent. AIDS has created 11 million orphans, and each year 530,000 children become infected with HIV from their mothers. The numbers are staggering and the need is great.
“Five years have passed since we began this effort and we must reauthorize the global AIDS program.
“This program was started with bipartisan support and that support remains strong today. The House of Representatives passed the reauthorization on a strong bipartisan vote. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also passed the bill with broad bipartisan support. The bill has the strong support of Senate Democrats, many Senate Republicans and President Bush.
“Unfortunately, this critical bill has been blocked by a small group of Republican Senators who have placed a hold on this legislation, preventing us from moving forward. That is why, several months ago, I asked Chairman Biden and Ranking Member Lugar to negotiate a compromise. They have worked tirelessly on this challenge and I thank them for all of their hard work.
“Given the importance of this legislation, I set a deadline of yesterday for the negotiations to be completed. I am pleased to announce that we have mainly completed those negotiations and reached a deal in principle.
“I want to thank Senators Biden and Lugar for their leadership during these negotiations and for their hard work over the past few days to close the deal on the final issues. Senators Coburn, Enzi, Burr, Kennedy, and the White House have all taken part as well. I appreciate the compromises that all of have made so that we can move this critical legislation forward.
“We still need to get a complete final text from legislative counsel, which we are working hard to do right now. Now that we have an agreement in principle, my strong preference would be to get this bill done this week. We should be able to do this quickly and easily – and it should be done before President Bush goes to the G-8 Summit next week. That would send an important message to the world that our country’s commitment to fight HIV/AIDS has not wavered.
“I hope, that once all the parties have read the final text, both sides can agree to pass this bipartisan legislation by unanimous consent. I will confirm with my side – but I am confident that we will be able to clear such an agreement.
“I would certainly hope that my colleagues on the other side would not block this bipartisan agreement – especially with the G-8 Conference coming soon. If the other side does choose to block us from moving forward, I am determined to move forward and plan on offering a consent agreement so that we can complete this legislation early in the next work period.”