Today's Q's for O's WH – 3/11/2010

TAPPER: The president has talked quite a bit about wanting an up- or-down vote for health-care reform legislation in the Senate. There's some talk now among House Democrats of using a certain kind of rule so that the Senate bill could be adopted without ever actually having a vote taken in the House of Representatives. They're calling it the Slaughter rule, after Louise Slaughter of the Rules Committee. GIBBS: I'm not familiar with this. So I would -- I would have to check with somebody about -

TAPPER; Well, I guess the larger question is just would it be okay with the president for this to happen without there ever being actually a vote? GIBBS: I -- let me -- I have not looked at what the specifics of this are, so let me take a --

TAPPER: One other question. On the -- in the House earlier today, Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, who was on hand when President Bush introduced PEPFAR, said that over the last two years PEPFAR funding has flatlined. He said “new PEPFAR contract awards emphasize treatment for only those already on it, and only very limited slots for new patients. Currently, my institution which pioneered antiretroviral therapy in Africa and treats the large proportion of AIDS patients in Uganda, is not taking new patients, due to lack of funding; were forced to turn away desperate patients daily, often 15 to 20.” There is a slight increase in funding for PEPFAR in the president's budget, but it is less than the rate of inflation in Africa, which is why they say it's flatlined. The president, when he was running for president, at Saddleback said that he supported an increase of a billion dollars a year. Why has he chosen to break this promise?

GIBBS: I have not seen the specific comments that you reference. The president obviously has been a big supporter of this program, and I think, when asked in the past, has been very complimentary of former President Bush's leadership in getting this type of program -- not just coming up with it conceptually, but getting it through -- getting it through Congress. The president obviously is committed to that. As you mention, there's an increase in the budget. I would have to take a look at the exact figures and get back to you on -- on what the exact PEPFAR funding dollars are for that. I'm happy to take a look at it and talk to the budget folks. TAPPER: It’s a $180 million increase. And -- GIBBS: Jake, I don't have the budget in front of me, but I'm happy to take a look at that. TAPPER: I did the research before. GIBBS: I -- TAPPER: You don’t trust my numbers? GIBBS: I'd prefer to look at the budget.


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