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Last Updated:10/03/01
Speech by Rep. Jim Kolbe
(R-Arizona), July 24, 2001

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE).

Mr. Chairman, I want to commend the gentlewoman from California and the leadership that she has shown in this fight against HIV and AIDS, and I also want to say the same about the gentlewoman from California (Ms. PELOSI), the other member of our subcommittee. Both of them have been true leaders in this and, really, the conscience of the House in this matter.

I wish I could agree with the amendment, but I think that we have a carefully balanced bill when it comes to our priorities, so I find myself in disagreement with this amendment. I think it is worth noting that the committee has recommended a generous increase for international health, and it has reduced the President's request for both of the accounts that this amendment would reduce even further.

The amendment, while it may be well motivated, threatens the balance among competing interests, competing national interests that are found in this bill. Arriving at that balance with the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY), the ranking member, has not been easy; and I do not expect that all of the Members necessarily are going to agree with it. But once we upset that, once we demolish that balance, I do not think it is going to be easy to restore.

Unlike last year, we cannot count on the other body to restore assistance to the Andean nations, nor can we count on the other body to restore further cuts we make in military assistance to Poland or to the Baltic States.

Mr. Chairman, the amendment would also cut $22 million from the foreign military financing program. This is an account that is very large at $3.627 billion. But 94 percent of those funds in this year's bill are allocated for Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. Only $177 million is available to the rest of the world. Let me repeat those two figures. This amendment cuts $22 million, and that is one-eighth of the military assistance to countries outside of the Middle East.

Who is going to be affected by that? Will this cut be allocated against our friends in Poland, in Hungary, or the Czech Republic, those who have just joined NATO? It is inevitable that they are going to be affected by this. Last year we had a similar amendment, together with the Waters amendment, that eliminated all military assistance except to Israel and Egypt, and even reduced funding for those countries.

It also eliminated our military assistance to the Baltic States. Members ignored warnings from the gentleman from Alabama (Chairman CALLAHAN) in their rush to support popular causes of the day.

I know that many Americans of Baltic and Central European origin were concerned about the action taken by this body last year, because most of us heard from them. Those Americans recognized not just the symbolic importance but the material importance of the assistance we give to the Baltic States and to Poland and to Hungary.

We should not make the same mistake again, in my view, of ignoring those concerns and the vital strategic interest we have in that region.

With regard to HIV/AIDS, my own commitment and involvement in this issue I think is a matter of public record. Just last Friday I chaired a day-long panel here in the House of Representatives, four panels of experts and leaders who updated dozens of staff members and other Members of this body on the current situation with regard to the pandemic.

That day-long seminar drove home very clearly to me the comments and remarks and the truth of what the gentlewoman from California has said. The crisis in HIV/AIDS has not abated. It is getting worse in the world. It requires more resources, a lot more resources.

Our bill does provide those resources, above and beyond what was requested by the President, at the expense of other programs. My chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Agencies reflects the priority we are giving in this global fight against the scourge of AIDS. We have $474 million for HIV/AIDS, and we just added in a recent amendment another $18 million to that. Another $80 million was provided by the supplemental appropriations conference agreement that Congress sent to the President last Friday.

Taking those two bills together, this bill and the supplemental that we just sent to the President, the House would increase AIDS funding by 76 percent in this year, from $315 million in fiscal year 2001 to $554 million in 2002, and my mental calculations here are not reflecting the $18 million we just added in with the adoption of the other amendment a few minutes ago.

This increase, over 76 percent in HIV/AIDS funding, is what the committee has concluded that we can afford and effectively use within the allocation provided for this bill. I am uncertain whether another $60 million would be obligated and effectively used during the fiscal year 2002, but it would be spent eventually.

I know the gentlewoman has put all of this money into the International Trust Fund, which I think, as the gentlewoman knows, at this point is still just on paper. We do not have it organized.

So I would oppose this amendment and urge my colleagues not to adopt this amendment but to allow the subcommittee and committee's work in this area to stand.

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