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FDA Appropriations Off to a Fast Start

April 23, 2012

Congress returned from Spring recess this week … and suddenly both the House and Senate are eager to move quickly on appropriations bills. This is much earlier than last year.

It also  appears to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that Congress will not complete the appropriations process until  after the November election.  If appropriations aren’t decided until the “lame duck” session, then Congress is likely to address them  at the same time as the sequester (mandated across-the-board FY 13 spending cuts scheduled for January 2, 2013) and the Bush tax credits (expiring December 31, 2012).

Nonetheless, both the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees started mark-ups this week, determined to deliver election-year messages (as detailed in the chart below). The Agriculture/FDA bill may be addressed as early as next week in the Senate appropriations committee and within the next few weeks in the House appropriations subcommittee.

Despite the quick start, there does not appear to be any coordination between the two bodies and there is a fundamental disagreement on total spending. The Senate’s efforts are based on total appropriations spending of $1.047 trillion, as agreed upon in last summer’s Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). In contrast, the House Republican majority has chosen to view the BCA amounts as a ceiling and have passed an FY 13 budget resolution that is $19 billion lower.

When the total budget is allocated to each subcommittee, the difference is sufficient that House and Senate conferees are unlikely to be able to agree on any final bills. This is the basis for the assumption that the appropriations process will eventually break down, perhaps in June or July. Then things would wait until after the election.

One difference for the Alliance is the timing of our advocacy. We have completed all steps that were planned prior to April 15, but in past years have had yet another 6 weeks to 6 months to advocate for FDA before mark-ups occurred.

This year, mark-ups will probably occur very soon … and our time and energy will be transferred to the period after mark-ups and before conference agreements are reached. The total timeframe, the intensity of our effort and the need for sharp, consistent messaging will remain the same.

Below is a chart that summarizes where the Senate and House are positioned, as of Thursday, April 19th.

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

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