(Washington Examiner) A group of political activists staged a protest in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s (R-CA) office to demand the reauthorization of the country’s health program aimed toward combating the spread of HIV, which is set to expire at the end of this month due to some GOP opposition to renew the program.
The activists were seen occupying McCarthy’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Monday morning, just one day before the House is set to reconvene after a six-week recess with just days to renew crucial spending programs and pass its budget to avert a government shutdown.
U.S. Capitol Police later responded to the scene and arrested seven protesters for unlawful entry “after the demonstrators refused to cease demonstrating,” the agency confirmed to the Washington Examiner.
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 protest comes as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is set to lapse on Oct. 1 amid criticism from House Republicans who say much of the budget is allocated toward abortion providers — a suggestion that Democrats deny. A lapse would significantly affect the program that is credited with saving more than 25 million lives and combating the global HIV epidemic.
The PEPFAR renewal is just one of several items on the House agenda over the next three weeks as lawmakers seek to pass a budget ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, as well as come to an agreement on other spending legislation, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.
Congress must pass its annual budget before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, or lawmakers risk a government shutdown. Budget disagreements are typical as both parties fight over spending priorities, with a final deal often not being made until the eleventh hour after a marathon voting session.