August 18, 2003
The Honorable Bill Frist
Senate Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Frist,
I write regarding the upcoming Senate consideration of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I appeal to you and your colleagues to find a way, in cooperation with the Administration, to meet our nations foreign assistance commitments, including full funding for morally appropriate programs to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa and the Caribbean and to address global poverty through the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). As one of the principal institutions serving needy people in Africa, including those suffering from HIV/AIDS, we believe that this is a matter of justice for the needy and of credibility for our nations commitment to foreign assistance.
The important leadership that you have demonstrated on the HIV/AIDS initiative, as well as the Presidents leadership on this issue and the MCA, must not be undermined by the failure to fully fund these programs. Moreover, funding for these initiatives must not come at the expense of funding for existing development and humanitarian assistance programs. Falling short in critical programs will diminish us as a nation, and allow more death and disease, hunger and deprivation among the poorest people on earth.
The bipartisan HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis Act authorizes the appropriation of $3 billion in FY2004 to fight these deadly diseases. For the MCA, President Bush has requested $1.3 billion for FY2004. Unfortunately the Foreign Operations bill, as reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, falls $1 billion short of the authorized funding for HIV/AIDS and $300 million short of the Presidents request for the MCA. Honoring these commitments in full, in a manner which promotes human life and dignity, could save countless lives and is essential to U.S. leadership.
For HIV/AIDS, some insist that the appropriation for FY2004 should not exceed $2 billion. They suggest that the affected countries lack the infrastructure and training necessary to absorb more funds effectively. We believe that it is this very lack of infrastructure and training that makes it essential to appropriate now a major share of the multi-year commitments our nation has made. Delaying the appropriation of any portion of the full $3 billion until later years will only delay the start-up of these crucial investments.
The current appropriations process presents an opportunity to demonstrate our values as a nation by delivering on our stated commitments. The $18.1 billion currently contained in the Senate Foreign Operations bill is simply not enough. It is only through your leadership, working with the Administration and the House, that the additional funding will be secured. The U.S. Catholic Bishops implore you to take on this moral mission to increase funding for ethically appropriate programs for combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and for alleviating poverty through the MCA, while ensuring that funding for the new initiatives will not be offset by cuts in other essential development assistance.
We welcome your leadership in helping to alleviate poverty and disease in developing countries. We pledge to work with you, your Congressional colleagues and the Bush Administration to ensure that our nation fulfills it commitments and keeps its promises.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Committee on International Policy