This vote was on an amendment by Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., that would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to modify the funding formulas for HIV/AIDS programs administered as part of the Ryan White AIDS program. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Education in fiscal 2008.
Enzi said he offered the amendment in the hopes that the Senate would adopt it and go on record against changing the funding formulas provided for by another piece of legislation. This legislation established a formula whereby cities with declining AIDS-related deaths would gradually receive less funding, and those with increasing AIDS-related deaths would receive more. But Enzi said the House bill contains a provision that would cap these losses for five years, and that this would primarily benefit the San Francisco area.
“We didn’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes; we provided clear information about the implications about those funding formulas. Now, with one simple pen stroke, the House majority would like to undo all of those carefully crafted, bipartisan, bicameral compromises and insert a new hold-harmless provision with little thought to how this change will affect others. I am pleased to note that the Senate did not include this egregious provision, and I hope today the Senate will go on record for opposing doing so,” Enzi said. “We should not be diverting key funds from cities with rising HIV cases to go to San Francisco—a city that is still receiving funds for treating people who have already died from AIDS.”
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the House bill’s “stop-loss” provision, which caps the amount of losses a metropolitan area might face, is intended to give these areas time to adjust to the expected loss of money without harming services for sick people. She said the San Francisco area lost $8.5 million in AIDS funding in just one year, almost 30 percent of the total program’s funding.
“No jurisdiction can absorb cuts of this magnitude in 1 year without significant harm to those they serve,” Feinstein said. “To take a 30-percent cut when we have the largest number of HIV/AIDS victims in our history in the city, to me, is discriminatory, wrongheaded, and it need not happen. I understand Senator Enzi wants to protect the reauthorization and the funding formula he authored, but I think we have to admit that the impact on some areas of the country was not anticipated. Fixing these unintended consequences does not require reopening the legislation. It can be addressed with a one-time solution that will still leave some cities with a decline in funds; that means the House solution of stop-loss.”
The Senate adopted Enzi’s amendment by a vote of 65-28. All but two Republicans present voted for the amendment (Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania). Of Democrats present, 19 voted for the amendment and 24 voted against it, including the most progressive senators. Thus, the measure went forward including language that would prohibit changes to the funding formulas for HIV/AIDS funding under the Ryan White AIDS program, leaving the funding for San Francisco intact.