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Gloom, Change, and Rumor Up on the Hill

May 14, 2010

ADVOCACY

Upcoming Meetings. The Alliance is scheduling a meeting with Karen Midthun, Director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.  Please let us know if you are interesting in attending the meeting.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The headline of the week reports on House Appropriations Chairman David Obey’s glum forecast for education, labor, and health programs. His comments were at the beginning of a hearing at which groups were asking for $14 billion to be added to the President’s request of $153 billion for  Labor-HHS appropriations. His message: assume the committee will need to pass a bill that cuts the President’s request by $3.5 billion. We have heard no similar prognostications about agriculture appropriations, but assume things are likely to be comparably difficult.

We had heard rumors that the Congress would pass Continuing Resolutions for FY 2011, funding the entire government (non-defense) at the President’s Request. Then we stopped hearing those rumors and now hear that Congress intends to take up each of the appropriations bills. Combined with the Obey announcement, a possible interpretation is that the President’s budget request is now considered “too generous” and that Congress needs to mark up the bills to effectuate greater cuts. For FDA’s sake, we hope this is not the case.

A second sad headline was that Senator Robert (Bob) Bennett (R-UT) was not re-nominated at party caucuses last weekend. During his time on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and especially as chairman and then ranking on the Agriculture/FDA subcommittee, he has been a great friend of the agency. His successor as Ranking Member, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) will also not be back because he is running for governor of Kansas. Altogether, five of the committee’s 12 Republican slots will turn over. The committee Democrats will have much less change, with only Senator Dorgan retiring.

Meantime, Chairman Obey has announced his retirement and we presume there will be other turnover. A forthcoming column will look at that.

Right now, the Alliance’s preoccupation is to get FDA increased funding for FY 11. But we already recognize that later this year and early next year, we will be spending a lot of time explaining FDA’s needs to new and newly-elevated members of Congress. We count on Alliance members to be there to help spread the FDA story.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance.

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