October 28, 2005

AIDS Drugs or a Japanese Garden: Which would You Choose?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee took an anti-pork stand on a Senate floor vote on Thursday. According to Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation,

President Bush had previously asked Congress to appropriate $30 million for construction upgrades at the Center for Disease Control facilities in Atlanta, including the Japanese gardens. There was already $240 million in previously authorized but not yet spent funds for the construction program.

The House approved the $30 million sought by Bush but when the bill came to the Senate, Coburn noted that it had increased the appropriation to $225 million, which meant there would be half a billion dollars available if the Senate version of the bill became law.

Coburn, who is a physician, offered the amendment to move $60 million from the CDC construction program to the AIDS effort. Doing so would mean "we will have enough funding to make sure everybody with HIV in this country has the medicine they need to stay alive," Coburn told the Senate, according to the Congressional Record for Oct. 26, 2005.

Coburn also told the Senate that the transfer was needed because "while people are dying from HIV, they cannot get medicines under the ADAP program because we cannot fund it significantly. We have multiple states with people on waiting lists. We have multiple states that cap the available benefits. It is a death sentence to those people with HIV today."

The amendment to transfer funds from building a garden at upgrading CDC headquarters to providing AIDS drugs was defeated, 85 – 14.

Senator Chafee was one of the 14 Senators who voted to provide AIDS drugs. Senator Jack Reed was one of the 85 Senators who voted to build the Japanese garden upgrade CDC headquarters instead. I would like to hear Sheldon Whitehouse's and Matt Brown’s position on this vote. So far, their Senate campaigns have been marked by unwavering adherence to national Democratic party positions. Would it be party discipline over doing the right and sensible thing on this issue too?

Finally, last week I posed the question of whether Senators and Congressmen are aware of what they are voting for when they pass these giant, pork-ladern approrpriations bills. Tapscott’s account of the Japanese garden amendment provides evidence that the answer is a thundering “No”…

Coburn then noted that "the CDC has just completed a $62 million visitors center. I am asking for $60 million for people who have HIV, who are never going to get to the visitors center. I do not how we spent $62 million on a visitors center for the CDC but I believe that priority is wrong when people are dying from HIV and do not have the available medicines."

Sen. Specter then responded to Coburn by first claiming there was not Japanese garden spending at the CDC facility in Atlanta, but then upon being corrected by a staffer, acknowledging that "maybe there could be a less expensive exotic garden than a Japanese garden."


In an update to his original post, Tapscott wishes to clarify any confusion about the amounts involved...

Please note that the Japanese garden is part of a $60 million package of construction upgrades. The garden is NOT a $60 million garden. My apologies for the awkward wording when this post initially appeared earlier today. Being an editor, I should have caught that earlier.

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There was another article in Human Events today that commends Chafee for his fiscally conservative vote against hte Rx Drug bill. Impressive. http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=9949

Posted by: Sarah at October 28, 2005 3:57 PM

I love Japanese gardens.

Posted by: TJ Jackson at October 28, 2005 6:39 PM

That certainly gives the word "conservative" a whole new meeting. Whoa!

Posted by: Will at October 29, 2005 1:46 AM