Senate Foreign Aid Bill Provides Billions in AIDS Funding

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Congress on Thursday sent President Bush a $20.9 billion measure for foreign policy programs and aid for poor nations, an increase of about $1 billion from last year.

The bill, which the Senate approved on a 91-0 vote, gives the president millions of dollars more than he sought for worldwide efforts to fight AIDS, but less money than he requested for Iraq reconstruction and a program to encourage global development.

The House approved the bill last week.

Overall, the bill gives Bush about $2 billion less than what he sought for State Department programs and financial aid for poor countries, reflecting budget constraints caused by the Iraq war, hurricane recovery and the soaring deficit.

Covering the budget year that began Oct. 1, the bill commits millions of dollars more to fight the spread of AIDS and other diseases in Africa and poor countries.

The AIDS effort is set to get $2.8 billion — $629 million more than last year's total and $268 million more than what the president sought for this year.

Lawmakers, however, trimmed Bush's request for the Millennium Challenge program, a hallmark in his effort to spread democracy to underdeveloped countries by tying foreign aid to political, economic and human rights reforms. The program has been slow to get off the ground.

The president wanted $3 billion for the effort, but lawmakers approved $1.8 billion, citing budget pressures. Nevertheless, the Still, the program will get $282 million more than it did last year.

Lawmakers also reduced the president's $459 million request for economic and security programs for Iraq to $61 million. They say that more than $3.5 billion remains from the original $18.4 billion Iraq reconstruction package.

The bill provides nearly $5 billion for military and economic assistance for Israel, Egypt and Pakistan, countries that are helping in the fight against terrorism.