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A Day on the Hill — and Thank You

March 12, 2010

ADVOCACY

The Alliance met with over 50 member offices on Thursday, March 11, as part of its annual Hill day.  Thank you to all  who participated and made the day a success.

Congressional Hearings

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Another Alliance lobby day is done. We were pleased at the expressions of support yesterday and the opportunity to educate Hill staff. We dare not get lulled by positive feedback.

The appropriations cycle is like a long Shakespearian drama and Congress is still on the opening lines of Act 1. Untold twists and turns are still ahead in what will be an extraordinary difficult appropriations cycle. While we have done about 70 Hill meetings this year (before and during lobby day), there is more hard work ahead.

Both parties are trying to position themselves politically for a bruising Fall election. The hottest items are: health reform, jobs and the economy, banking reform, and immigration. None of these are easy to resolve and they have been sucking dry the energies and patience of Congress. The Hill is testy.

Somewhere within the next 10 to 12 weeks, deficit reduction is going to be caught up in this same vortex — commanding headlines and stimulating politically-driven positions. In a sense, this has already started with a skirmish between House Appropriations Committee Democrats and Republicans over who is more committed to getting rid of earmarks.

FDA doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s cut list, but nothing is guaranteed. For the moment, the focus is on President Obama’s recommendation for a $154 million increase for FDA,  a little over 6% when you take out some earmarks. It is a good start compared to the President’s recommendation for other agencies, but not nearly enough to keep FDA on the path to getting stronger. As analyzed in last week’s Friday Update, it will take at least a $250 million increase to fund both inflationary cost increases at FDA and program growth recommended by the President. One of our greatest risks is that Congress might think that a $154 million increase covers both.

As we fight to get further increases for FDA, we have many things going for us. Through the efforts of our members, we are considered one of the “good guys,” with an important cause and strong logic to back up our requests. The Hill does seem to understand that we represent a unique confluence of interests. They give us credit for being able to speak with one voice for all the stakeholders.

Notably different this year is that Commissioner Hamburg and Deputy Commissioner Sharfstein are not hesitant to say: more resources will help us deal with the concerns of Congress and the American people.

A reminder for those planning to submit testimony for the record, the deadline for the House Appropriations Committee is March 19 and for the Senate side it is March 26.

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

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