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And Now … From a Snow-Bound Metro DC

February 13, 2010

ADVOCACY

Agriculture Appropriators Meetings.  Next week the Alliance is set to resume its meetings with the staff of members of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees.

Please Save The Date:  2010 Alliance Hill Day, Thursday, March 11.   The Alliance’s annual Hill-advocacy day will occur on Thursday, March 11.  More specific details regarding scheduling and logistics will be provided in the near term.  

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

I have about 37 inches of snow at my door and my driveway is a sheet of ice until about noon each day. How about you?

Once the President releases his budget request, the appropriations process starts to move quickly. Chairwoman  Rosa DeLauro’s House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee had already scheduled an FDA hearing for February 10. Both the hearing and the overall process were delayed by this week’s record snow in DC. This means it will be even more intense when Congress reconvenes on February 22.

March 11 is the Alliance’s Hill Lobby Day. Between regular appointments and lobby day, the Alliance and its members will probably complete between 75 and 100 Hill meetings in March. Thanks to our diverse membership, Congress listens when we tell them that FDA is still significantly underfunded. Long-time Hill staffers routinely tell us that they never see the kind of consensus we bring to advocacy before Congress.

Also in March, written testimony is due in the House on March 18 and in the Senate on March 26. While the Alliance will be submitting testimony to both, it is helpful for our members to submit their own statements. For reference purposes, we have attached the Alliance’s FY 11 request compared to the President’s request and to FY 08, 09, and 10. Submitting testimony is yet another way that we can impress Congress with our diverse and committed membership.

How does March relate to the rest of the year? We know Congress will want to go home to campaign as early as possible.  Target adjournment for the House is October 8. While the Senate is mum, it probably has about the same target. Sometimes a few appropriations bills reach the President’s desk by August recess. More often, there are House and Senate versions in late July and staff spend the recess and the early part of September reaching agreements for ratification by Members. Agriculture appropriations is usually on that schedule.

Based on that, here is my (purely speculative) calendar. The appropriations subcommittees will have hearings (Members) and receive agency briefings (staff) over the next 6 to 10 weeks. By then, the House and Senate Budget Committees should have recommended spending targets for FY 11.  This also gives time for other Members to submit their requests to the Appropriations Committees. (The Senate deadline is March 26).  House and Senate subcommittee mark-ups are likely to take place in May and June and full committee mark-ups in June and July. Both subcommittees will be trying to get floor action on their bills before August recess. That sets up the scenario given above, where a final version is negotiated in August and early September.

The timeframes could speed up if the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House want to get a number of appropriations bills to the President before August. It can also slow down, as it often does. Under the worst case scenario, agriculture appropriations (and FDA) are included in a continuing resolution (CR) passed in late September. This would assure agency (and government) funding for a period of time — it could be as short as 3 or 4 days or extend for the entire fiscal year. In all likelihood, this really would be a worst-case scenario for FDA since the spending levels under a CR are often limited to the amount appropriated in the prior year.

There will be a lot to report and Ladd, Tony, and I will provide you updates every Friday. It would be even better if you participate in our Hill meetings and add FDA appropriations to the agenda when you meet with Congressional offices on other matters. We would be even stronger with more members, so we urge you to help us. It would be great to preserve our diversity and be able to claim 200, 250 or more members. The Hill will notice.

Stay warm and dry … if you already in such a climate, know that all of us in DC are envious.

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

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