Republicans have large philosophical differences with the $819 billion economic stimulus package that passed the House on Jan. 28, 2009, and they have tried to discredit the plan by singling out relatively small spending proposals they see as inappropriate. One of the most widely cited claims from Republican leaders has been that the stimulus plan includes millions for sexually transmitted disease education.
On the day of the the House vote, the National Republican Congressional Committee circulated a news release in the districts of 29 freshman House Democrats, chastising them for supporting a massive spending plan that the NRCC said includes $335 million for sexually transmitted disease prevention programs.
A version of the news release circulating in Florida, for example, begins, "Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-08) and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) are set to cast their vote today on a so-called 'stimulus' package, which has shattered the trillion dollar mark. The question is: Will Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas still support the massive spending bill now that it has become public that the House Democrats' so-called 'stimulus' has been stuffed with an astonishing $335 million to fund prevention programs of sexually transmitted diseases?"
Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, had been making the same point for days, including in an interview with Fox News on Jan. 23. But the STD spending issue gained considerable momentum as a Republican attack after the Drudge Report posted an alert about it at the top of its popular political Web page on Jan. 28.
So is there really STD prevention spending in the stimulus bill passed by House Democrats on Jan. 28?
Yes, there is.
In a section of the plan that includes funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bill states that "not less than $335,000,000 shall be used as an additional amount to carry out domestic HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually-transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis prevention programs, as jointly determined by the Secretary and the Director."
In an interview on CBS's Early Show on Jan. 29, the day after the House passed the stimulus package, anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi how $335 million in STD prevention would stimulate the economy.
Said Pelosi: "I'll tell you how. ... I'm a big believer in prevention. And we have — there's a part of the bill, on the health side of it, that is about prevention. It's about it being less expensive to the states to do these prevention measures."
We note that while the NRCC news release specifically calls out House Democrats for the STD spending, the Senate version of the bill also includes it — in fact, slightly more. A portion of the stimulus plan approved by the Senate Appropriations committee on Jan. 27 states that "not less than $400,000,000 shall be transferred to the CDC for an additional amount for the screening and prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV."
A committee report on the bill backs up the HIV and STD prevention spending with this analysis: "CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new STD infections occur annually in the United States, with 1 in 4 teenage girls currently infected. This epidemic is estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system $15,000,000,000 annually, all of which is preventable. The Committee has included $400,000,000 for testing and prevention of these conditions. The Committee intends that funds be used for grants to States for testing activities, and the prevention of STD infections like chlamydia that have been increasing dramatically in recent years."
We're not going to wade into the debate over whether the spending is appropriate for an economic stimulus bill. We're only ruling on whether there is $335 million in the House version of the bill for STD prevention programs. We note that while the proposed $335 million in the House bill includes prevention programs for STDs, it also includes prevention programs HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis prevention programs, which are not always transmitted sexually. So we find the claim Mostly True.