WASHINGTON — A defiant S.C. Sen. Jim DeMint said last week that his failure to reduce the cost of President Bush's $48 billion global AIDS program won't deter him from continuing to compel lawmakers to take tough votes on government spending.
DeMint responded after the Senate overwhelmingly approved a significant expansion of the AIDS initiative Bush launched in 2003 to stem the disease's spread in Africa.
"Folks in South Carolina want accountability in Washington, and I'm not going to be shy to pull back the curtain on Congress' misplaced priorities and deficit spending," DeMint said. "Before we forced a debate, few Americans knew our tax dollars are being funneled to a Chinese organization that promotes forced abortions and sterilizations. That's an outrage that everyone should know about, but the bill's supporters wanted to keep it quiet."
Before voting 80-16 to pass the AIDS bill, the Senate defeated DeMint's amendments to cut its cost to $35billion over five years and to prohibit funds from being used for alleged "coercive abortion and forced sterilization" in China or other countries.
About $10 billion in the AIDS measure would go to the U.N. Global Fund, which the international organization established to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The fund has given at least $70 million to a Chinese state-run agency that requires women to be sterilized or have abortions to limit population growth, DeMint aides said.
DeMint's spokesman, Wesley Denton, noted that the five top Senate Republican leaders had backed his cost-cutting measure, which was defeated by a 64-31 vote.
House Foreign Relations Committee aides signaled Thursday that the full House would pass the reconciled House-Senate bill soon and send it to Bush to sign into law.
In emotional debate on the Senate floor Wednesday, DeMint pleaded with his peers to apply fiscal restraint.
"What we're doing here this week I consider obscene completely unacceptable," DeMint said. "We're talking about creating the largest foreign-aid program in the history of our country, with no thought."