Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13) joined with House colleagues Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA28) and Mike Quigley (D-IL5) recently to successfully shepherd an amendment through the House Appropriations Committee that added $3 million in funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. The amendment to theTransportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Billadded $3 million to the $300 million appropriated by the committee, a significant cut from the $314 allocated in the FY2013 appropriation bill and a far cry from the $335 million requested by House Democrats in support of the National AIDS Housing Coalition.
According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition, there are 145,366 people living with HIV/AIDS who need housing support which translates into a real need of $1.2 billion. While it may appear that Rep. Lee’s $3 million amendment is merely a drop in the bucket, 500 additional people living with HIV/AIDS will get needed housing support. They and their families will be thankful for her efforts.
The House continued its onslaught against social policy spending by gutting $7 billion from the $58.8 THUD appropriation level of the FY2013 bill. Their $44.1 billion allocation was nearly $10 billion less than the bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. In a statement released following the committee vote, Rep. Lee said: “While I am pleased our amendment passed, the HOPWA program and all other public health and HIV/AIDS programs, continue to be subject to severe and ongoing budget cuts and sequestration. Now is the time to scale-up these programs and sufficiently fund these needed services. Over the last few years, we have made tremendous progress in fighting this disease; we can’t go back now.”
Lee also had another amendment that passed which added language to the bill expressing a “sense of Congress” that no legislation be passed that “increases poverty in the United States.” Lee’s amendment is reminiscent of the Powell Amendment often proffered by the late New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. denying federal funds to states that were not in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing segregation in public schools. Like Powell’s, Lee’s principled amendment keeps the issue of poverty up front and center.
You have to admire Rep. Lee’s commitment and consistency and her willingness to be a maverick. In an interview on her website, Lee traces her commitment to HIV/AIDS back to the 1980s when one of her mentors, Maudelle Shireck insisted she attend an ACT UP rally. In the 1990s, she saw first-hand the devastation AIDS was wreaking on people in Africa. She was instrumental in bringing the International AIDS Conference (IAC) back to the U.S. last July. Rep. Lee serves as co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus and as vice-chair of the LBGT Equality Caucus. She recently introduced H.R. 2599—the Justice for the Unprotected against Sexually Transmitted Infections among the Confined and Exposed (JUSTICE) Act to reduce the spread of STDs among incarcerated populations.
Rep. Lee is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus and has sponsored numerous bills that would alleviate poverty for the nation’s most vunerable citizens. It is well known that she was the lone legislator in Congress to vote against authorizing war powers that permitted President George W. Bush to initiate the war in Iraq. She continues to lead the fight to promote peace when the conventional wisdom seeks to exercise military power. When it comes to poverty, peace, and people with AIDS, Rep. Barbara Lee is matchless in her zeal to find solutions on and off the Hill. My guess is that Rep. Lee wanted much more than $3 million added for HOPWA, but she would not leave empty handed.
Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy
Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. is President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. He has served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus. He was a full-time faculty member at Howard University School of Social Work prior to joining Rep. Towns’ staff and now is an adjunct associate professor. As staff coordinator for the Social Work Caucus, Dr. Lewis helped to plan and to coordinate numerous briefings and events on the Hill and in the 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
Originally Posted at http://crispinc.org/?p=968