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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

July 16, 2010

ADVOCACY

Letters to HHS Secretary Sebelius. Thank you to Alliance members who have written some excellent letters to Secretary Sebelius regarding the FY 2011 Budget Process.  We are continuing to urge Alliance members who have not written letters to please do so and to please share with us your letter when it is complete as we are continuing to post them on our website.

Meetings. Consumer group representatives are meeting next week with HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr to discuss the importance of FDA funding.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the Ag/FDA bill yesterday afternoon. Today, we sent all Alliance members our press release and the Senate report language. We also sent a chart comparing FY 10 with our recommendations and the proposals from the Administration, the House, and the Senate.

The Senate is a “good news/not-so-good news” story. The good news is that the Senate agreed that FDA needs better funding … and provided $158 million in new monies. This is a 6% to 7% increase. It is not nearly enough to meet FDA’s responsibilities, but it is more than what most domestic federal agencies will receive. The Senate, in proposing this increase, is agreeing with the Alliance that FDA needs to be an exception to this year’s tough round of budget-cutting. We appreciate that Senators Kohl and Brownback have been willing to fight for FDA and they deserve our thanks.

The not-so-good news is that the Senate’s proposed levels are the same as the Administration’s request. We had hoped that additional monies could be found so that the Senate would match or top the House sub-committee level. The House came in with a $214 million increase over FY 10, about 9%. Their level is also $55 million above the Senate and Administration position.

If the money can be found, we believe that the Senate would consider the House level. This could occur during a House-Senate conference to resolve differences between the Ag/FDA bills or when Congress puts together a continuing resolution for funding the government for FY 11.  There is still a ways to go: House full committee needs to mark up, which might occur before the August recess. Then both bodies will need to consider and approve these appropriations bills. This presumably would occur in September, although there is a chance for this to occur in late July. It looks like Ag/FDA might be one of the first appropriations bills to move through the pipeline, so hopefully it will be enacted into law before the Congress has to pass a Continuing Resolution (September 30 in advance of the new fiscal year, which starts on October 1).

The Alliance continues to work for the House level or higher. We know this is a tough budget year and Hill deliberations are being skewed by the upcoming 2010 elections. Despite this environment, our friends in the Administration, the House and the Senate are still trying hard to get the agency more money for FY 11.  The Alliance is working with them to preserve FDA gains and to raise awareness that FDA is still under-resourced relative to the agency’s responsibilities.

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

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