No Agreement Yet on AIDS bill

Posted July 11, 2008 at 2:37pm

A battle between several Republicans and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over how to proceed on legislation that would fund programs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other chronic diseases in developing countries will likely spill over into the week of July 14.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to vote on the housing bill Friday evening. The bill, if passed, would bounce back to the House. Several provisions, including when a new regulator may be installed to oversee Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, must be ironed out before it’s sent to the president.

Several Senate Republicans, including Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) And David Vitter (La.) are complaining that Reid has policed what amendments can be offered, particularly on a bill that would spend billions of dollars for foreign programs that are not near and dear to many socially conservative Members.

More so than the language of the bill itself, Republicans balk at the way they think the Majority Leader has pushed them aside.

“At what point is the Senate going to allow debate and offer amendments?” said a GOP aide. “At what point is Reid going to allow Senators their right to offer amendments?”

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), however, said that Republicans sent several amendments over late Thursday night, but many of them were presented “in concept” and not ready to be officially offered.

“This thing has been going on for far too long,” Durbin said. “It’s been on the calendar for several weeks.”

A Friday cloture vote has been scheduled for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Still, Republicans are likely to put Democrats on the defense in light of the increasing gasoline prices, as there has been no major piece of legislation that would ease the energy crunch. Republicans have been campaigning hard for legislation that would increase supplies through oil exploration as well as alternative energy sources.

Other legislation that could possibly come up the week of July 14 include the low-income energy assistance program, a media shield bill and something addressing the energy situation.