Two of President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans joined four Democrats on Monday in demanding that the White House provide more information about an executive order that has shown embarrassment among international organizations involved in family planning, AIDS treatment, and other healthcare issues.
In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 23 restore the so-called Mexico City policy, known by critics as the "global gag" rule, which withholds U.S. funding for international organizations that fulfill abortions or provide information about abortion.
Although other Republican presidents have also adopted the policy, Trump broadened the scope to all global health support, which may enclose as much as fifteen times more federal funding than previous Republican administrations' versions of this policy," the six senators wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters.
The order conceals half a billion dollars or more in U.S. funds, and aid groups said it was issued with so little guidance that they have been scrambling to figure out how to move.
In the letter, the senators said Trump's broader order now includes the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and all other global health programs financed through the Department of State, Agency for International Development and Department of Health and Human Services.
PEPFAR, which enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress, is the largest supplier of AIDS-fighting medicine in the world and has been credited with saving millions of lives.
This instruction ... has caused mass confusion among federal agencies and international relief organizations. While they wait for lucidity from this administration, there's been a global chilling effect on life-saving work," said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who arranged the letter.
Among other things, the senators asked if Trump's administration had managed a cost-benefit evaluation of the policy, whether it had drastic how many lives might be saved or lost or whether it had researched how the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Zika might be affected.
Besides Shaheen, the letter was signed by Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Democrats Ben Cardin, Richard Blumenthal and Angus King, an independent who assembly with Democrats.
The Trump administration is planning to obey a budget proposing steep cuts in spending on the U.S. State Department and foreign help. Several Republican members of Congress have expressed reservations about that plan.
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