Conservative groups are silent after House passes AIDS bill with their amendments

Late Thursday, Weblog promised to round up reactions to the passage of a U.S. House bill tripling federal anti-AIDS expenditures. It looks like that's not going to happen: people and groups simply aren't reacting.

That's surprising, given how much conservative groups lobbied and drew attention to what they saw as the bill's deficiencies. For example, Focus on the Family's Family News in Focus ran half a dozen stories on the bill as it worked its way to the House floor—and hasn't run anything since. Concerned Women for America sent out an action alert telling supporters to lobby for changes to the bill, but it's not on its legislation watch list and the organization hasn't posted anything on its site about the bill's passage (apparently the Vatican's new lexicon is more noteworthy to the group).

From a quick search of the websites of conservative groups that drew attention to the bill, it appears that only Family Research Council has issued post-vote commentary.

"We made it clear from the beginning that while we supported the President's noble initiative to combat AIDS in Africa, the original bill had serious flaws and was one we could not support," FRC President Ken Connor said in a press release and in a letter to supporters. "The efforts of the pro-family lobby paid off. … Combating the global AIDS crisis is a worthy expenditure of American tax dollars. In addition to the amendments passed today in the House, we urge President Bush to cap the funds for the UN Global Aids Fund at $200 million."

But perhaps the reason that conservative groups aren't commenting on the bill's passage is that they don't know whether—even with amendments strengthening abstinence funding and allowing religious groups to opt out from condom distribution—spending $15 billion to combat AIDS worldwide is such a good thing. No profamily group is actually criticizing the expenditures, but none is calling for quick passage in the Senate, either. (If they do run follow-up stories, we'll of course link to them in a future Weblog.)

Note Connor's comment to The Washington Post about the amendments: "They make an otherwise distasteful bill palatable." That's not damning the bill with faint praise. That's just damning the bill.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) thinks differently. In what The Washington Times calls "a rare appearance during legislative debate," DeLay called for support. "Some people are afraid to take a moral stand," he said. "This entire bill is a moral crusade to save an entire continent from the plague of AIDS."

Indeed. So where are the moralists?