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Time for Some Constructive, Bipartisan Conversations

November 9, 2012

The 2012 election was never about FDA … but it is good for FDA that it is over.

Collectively, winners received no overriding mandate — or at least none larger than to serve their term and do the best job they can. Democrats retained the Presidency and may add a vote or two to their Senate majority. Republicans maintained clear control of the House and picked up additional governorships.  To get to this result, there had to have been a lot of ticket-splitting, further reinforcing the lack of a national mandate from the voters

For the purposes of discussion, let us translate these election outcomes into the most favorable interpretation for FDA. In that case, the winners received a mandate to get back to work — to find bipartisan solutions to the difficult national problems of jobs, federal spending, the national debt and global leadership. FDA isn’t on this list, either, but will still benefit if those get addressed.

As this column and the Alliance has consistently maintained: FDA funding problems are — first and foremost — a product of macro-budgetary politics. The annual national budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion and must be reduced by a large amount of money (albeit, perhaps, over several years and not all at once). The iron triangle of deficit reduction applies: funds can only come from some combination of additional revenues, reduced growth in entitlement programs and cuts in discretionary programs.

Oversimplifying: Republicans have a problem with additional revenues; Democrats have a problem with reducing entitlement programs; and the complete elimination of discretionary programs (including defense) does not provide enough dollars to solve the problem. Once Congress gets a comprehensive plan in place that is realistic, draws from all three pots, and restores business and public confidence in our economic future … then it is possible to hope for a strong assist from a growing economy that will generate more revenues in the coming years.

It is hard to overestimate the difficulty that Congress will have in dealing with these budget and economic issues. However, the uncertainty created by the election is now over. Members of Congress are now stuck with each other for the next two years (albeit there will be a slightly different set starting in January than there will be finishing off the post-election session this year).

As FDA advocates, we can only hope that — post-election — they will now start talking with each other constructively. As part of this, we urge Congress to:

  • Recognize and properly fund the special and growing role of FDA as a protector of food and drug safety and a gateway to medical innovation and science.
  • Find alternative means to reduce the budget deficit and avoid the across-the-board sequestration of 8.2% of federal agency funding on January 2, 2013.
  • Return federal budget-making to a process under which national priorities (e.g., FDA) are adequately funded.

The agency’s case for funding has never been stronger. We just need a political and budgetary environment in which we can make our points.

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