Police arrested seven demonstrators on Monday for protesting in the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Capitol Hill. They were demanding he reauthorize PEPFAR, the relief program for HIV/AIDS, Politico reported.
“McCarthy — pass PEPFAR now,” the demonstrators chanted as they sat on the floor, according to the Daily Mail.
U.S. Capitol Police removed the protesters from McCarthy’s office in the Cannon House Office Building, which is across the street from his official speaker’s office in the Capitol building, after they refused to leave.
PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is a global program started by President George W. Bush. It has become entangled in the fight over abortion and faces a Sept. 30 deadline to be reauthorized.
Some conservative Republicans state that funds from the program’s nearly $7 billion annual budget go to abortion providers, which the Biden administration, the program’s leaders, and outside experts all deny, according to the Daily Mail.
Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, who heads the subcommittee that controls PEPFAR, is leading the attempt to stop the renewal of the program until the anti-abortion restrictions the Biden administration lifted in 2021 are reinstated. Those restrictions prevented groups using PEPFAR funds from talking about abortion as an option.
PEPFAR battles AIDS and the virus that causes it in regions throughout the developing world by providing funding for prevention, treatment, and medication.
The protesters were from Health GAP (Global Access Project), a nonprofit that advocates for those with AIDS, and Housing Works, a group working to end homelessness and AIDS.
The groups posted video and pictures of their protest on social media, with Housing Works stating that “this global AIDS program has saved 25 million lives. We need a clean, 5-year reauthorization from Congress.”
Alyson Bancroft, HealthGAP’s associate director for policy and advocacy, told Politico that McCarthy is a “strategic target” in the ongoing attempts to prevent PEPFAR’s authorization from lapsing.
“When it comes to both the domestic cuts [to HIV funding] and the failure thus far to reauthorize PEPFAR in its current form, we’re seeing that the issues are coming from the Republican caucus, so we need leadership,” she said. “He needs to get his caucus in order.”
Brian Freeman ✉
Brian Freeman, a Newsmax writer based in Israel, has more than three decades writing and editing about culture and politics for newspapers, online and television.
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