The House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, has become accustomed to facing protests from various political perspectives, enduring them with composure. However, he recently witnessed authorities employing a more forceful approach to remove a group of activists from his office.
In 2003, President George W. Bush introduced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, aimed at combatting the global AIDS and HIV epidemic. Over the course of the last two decades, this program has been acknowledged by experts for its role in preserving the lives of over 25 million individuals.
The program is scheduled to conclude on September 30, requiring Congress to renew its funding if they intend to prolong the initiative. On September 11, the US Capitol police apprehended three women and four men on allegations of entering McCarthy’s office.
According to a police spokesperson, Brianna Burch, the demonstrators declined to depart the premises even after being requested to do so. Despite being instructed to discontinue their demonstration, Burch noted that they persisted in their protest.
An online video depicted the protestors seated on the floor of McCarthy’s office, vocalizing the chant, “Pass PEPFAR now, McCarthy!”
BREAKING: Activists are occupying @SpeakerMcCarthy’s office demanding a full 5 year reauthorization of PEPFAR, which some Rs are opposing. Background: https://t.co/nQVnCxPDE0 pic.twitter.com/wCZx4Z6wzu— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) September 11, 2023
The demonstrators were said to be affiliated with an organization called Housing Works. Their objective is to urge the speaker to extend the program for an additional five years. In a statement posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter, the group expressed their pride in aligning with Health GAP and occupying McCarthy’s office.
Reports suggest that the likelihood of Congress renewing the program is low. Previously, the law had been extended in five-year intervals. If legislators opt not to grant reauthorization for the AIDS program, it will still operate but will become part of the ongoing budget dispute.
BREAKING: We’re proud to be with @HealthGAP occupying the D.C. office of @SpeakerMcCarthy calling on him to PASS PEPFAR NOW.— Housing Works (@housingworks) September 11, 2023
This global AIDS program has saved 25 million lives. We need a CLEAN 5-YEAR REAUTHORIZATION from Congress. pic.twitter.com/njQsNpDcLO
The budget conflict is already a subject of considerable deliberation in Capitol Hill. The looming prospect of a fall shutdown remains a concern. Senate and House leaders will need to pass a continuing resolution to extend negotiation time and avoid a shutdown. However, if they cannot reach an agreement by September 30, the nation will face a partial shutdown, which would have adverse consequences.