Bush Institute Urgently Calls on Congress to Renew its AIDS Program | ET REALITY

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The institute founded by President George W. Bush made an urgent call Wednesday for Congress to renew the global AIDS program known as PEPFAR, a centerpiece of Bush’s foreign policy legacy that has become a victim of politics. abortionist on Capitol Hill.

PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) has saved approximately 25 million lives since Bush founded it 20 years ago. The $6.9 billion program, which must be reauthorized by Congress every five years, has long enjoyed bipartisan support and is often cited as a powerful example of America’s moral leadership in the world.

But he faces an uncertain future. Legislation authorizing the program expired on Sept. 30 after some House Republicans claimed, without evidence, that the Biden administration was using it to promote abortion abroad. Those Republicans want to impose abortion-related restrictions on PEPFAR that would doom its reauthorization in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The nonpartisan Bush Institute has so far been reluctant to weigh in on the debate.

But in a bipartisan letter Signed by more than 30 retired ambassadors, luminaries and foreign policy organizations, including the Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, the institute pleaded with Congress to reauthorize the program. He argued that, in addition to saving lives, PEPFAR was countering the growing influence of Russia and China and burnishing the United States’ reputation as a global leader.

“PEPFAR is a model of American leadership and a source of great national pride,” the letter said. “It is one of the most successful international development programs since World War II. Abruptly abandoning it now would send a dark message, suggesting that we can no longer set aside our politics for the betterment of democracies and the world.”

At least for now, PEPFAR is still working. But advocates fear that without the underlying authorization, the program would be subject to budget cuts or even elimination in the future. And they say the program is weaker without bipartisan approval from Congress.

“The classic conservative talking point is that we don’t want to fund programs that aren’t authorized,” said Keifer Buckingham, advocacy director at the Open Society Foundations and a longtime supporter of PEPFAR. “It’s also fair to say that in global health and global health policy, optics matter,” he added.

Bush himself did not sign the institute’s letter; People close to him have said she is trying to use his voice judiciously. The lead signer is Dr. Deborah L. Birx, a senior fellow at the Bush Institute who led PEPFAR under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump, and also served as Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator.

But Bush has made no secret that he wants the program to be reauthorized. During the summer, discussed his future with Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during a lunch at the Bush family compound in Maine. In mid-September he published an op-ed in The Washington Post urging Congress to save it.

At the time, PEPFAR supporters on Capitol Hill thought they were making progress toward breaking the impasse. Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who is a leading supporter of the program, said in an interview that she was working with a freshman Republican, Rep. John James of Michigan, on a bipartisan reauthorization bill.

But the effort was put on hold last month amid the threat of a government shutdown, and remains stalled because the House is in a state of dysfunction and Republicans cannot elect a speaker.

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