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Is an Omnibus FY 13 Appropriations Bill a Real Possibility?

November 30, 2012

The U.S. fiscal cliff — and negotiations to resolve it — seem to have gone viral, blocking out virtually every other piece of national, business, financial, and political news since the November 6 election. Over the two weeks since our last Analysis and Commentary piece, the most noteworthy change is that Republicans seem to be willing to discuss new revenue (details TBD and in dispute), while Democrats seem to be reconsidering the extent to which entitlement reforms are on the table (details TBD and in dispute).

As both sides are re-evaluating their positions, it does seem like the focus has shifted away from further reductions in discretionary spending. This could reverse in a heartbeat — and is an unscientific observation to begin with — but looking more seriously at revenue and entitlements is reminding Rs and Ds of two very important budgetary realities:

  • Through the 2013-2021 spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011, discretionary spending is already contributing $1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade; sequestration was a punitive “double-down” strategy that would have brought the total to a completely unjustifiable $2 trillion cut; and
  • No amount of discretionary spending cuts (including completely eliminating discretionary spending) produces enough deficit relief to solve the overall fiscal/deficit crisis.

Sequestration is still “current law” and will go into effect automatically on January 2, 2013 unless deferred or replaced … but there finally seem to be broader discussions that involve a much smaller sequestration and possibly none at all.

Equally hopeful, but still in the premature stage, is news that the Appropriations Committees have agreed upon (or are close to an agreement on) omnibus spending legislation for funding FY 13. From a political standpoint, these committees have been the big losers thus far. … They have worked hard to allocate discretionary spending to our nation’s highest priorities, only to find their work put aside in favor of a continuing resolution based on last year’s spending and a sequestration algorithm that equally punishes all discretionary programs, regardless of merit.

The Alliance has a common cause with the Appropriations Committees. Under CRs and sequestration, FDA cannot receive the funding it needs because there is no avenue for 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.

Thus, the development of FY 13 omnibus appropriations legislation is consistent with an important Alliance position: return federal budget-making to a process under which national priorities (core government functions) are adequately funded. Regardless of how FDA actually fares under the omnibus, we can expect to have been given fair consideration of FDA’s actual needs based on the agency’s importance and the demands being placed upon it. It is also reason to be hopeful that FDA might merit an increase in FY 13 — a year for which the prospects have been unremittingly negative.

A lot needs to decided — politically and substantively — before an FY 13 omnibus appropriations bill is likely to be considered by Congress. The Alliance will be working hard to make sure that the omnibus has the best possible chance of becoming a reality.

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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