Durbin Calls Out House Republicans for Dangerous Effort to Block Reauthorization of AIDS Relief

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin slams Republicans for falsely claiming that PEPFAR funds abortions abroad

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor emphasizing the positive impact of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has saved more than 25 million lives worldwide in conjunction with its companion effort, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.  In his speech, Durbin criticized House Republicans for threatening to halt the reauthorization of PEPFAR despite the program’s effectiveness by falsely arguing that the program funds abortions abroad.

“I don’t agree with former President George Bush on many things, but I have given him credit repeatedly for making the United States a leader in stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic in some of the poorest parts of the world… PEPFAR, and its companion effort, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, dramatically curtailed the AIDS epidemic that was ravaging the world,”Durbin began.

At one point, AIDS was killing more than two million people per year globally and leaving 14 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.  Life expectancy in the most affected countries dropped by 20 years.  With the creation of PEPFAR and the Global Fund Programs, those with AIDS were provided with retroviral drugs that allowed them to live healthier lives while preventing the spread of the disease through childbirth. 

Despite the program’s proven need and effectiveness, House Republicans are attempting to block the reauthorization of PEPFAR under the fabricated assertation that the program funds abortion access in foreign countries.  In his remarks, Durbin reiterated the falsity of this claim and underscored the dangerous consequences of failing to reauthorize PEPFAR.

“These programs are not only the right thing to do, they are also one of the most effective examples of America’s soft power and international development efforts… So imagine my concern and surprise that there is currently an effort by extreme Republicans in the House of Representatives to block the reauthorization of this hugely successful, bipartisan, George W. Bush program over a false and manufactured abortion concern.  Taking the extreme position of blocking this life-saving program is as shortsighted and nihilistic as siding with Putin and failing to help Ukraine,”Durbin said.

“Right now, America’s reputation on the global stage is being threatened by House Republicans’ internal politics.  But reauthorizing PEPFAR is common sense to reassure the world that American can push past partisanship and use our influence, resources, and power to save lives.  Some things are simply beyond politics,” Durbin continued.

Durbin concluded his speech by urging his colleagues to recommit to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic for good, calling on them to immediately reauthorize PEPFAR. 

“Former President Bush… wrote in theWashington Post recently, ‘We are on the verge of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  To abandon our commitment now would forfeit two decades of unimaginable progress and rather further questions about the worth of America’s words,’”Durbin quoted.

“I couldn’t agree more, and I call on my Republican friends to help reauthorize this historic, bipartisan, lifesaving effort without further delay,” Durbin concluded his speech.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here for TV Stations.