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The House is Gone … But Not Forgotten

July 30, 2010

ADVOCACY

Letters to HHS Secretary Sebelius.  Alliance members are continuing to send great letters to Secretary Sebelius regarding the FY 2012 budget process.  We 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.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

By the time you read this, the House will be on its way out of town. The Senate will hang around for another week, presumably dominated by consideration of the Kagan nomination for the Supreme Court. The House and the Senate will return to Washington the week of September 13. This prompts two thoughts:

Congress leaves, but our advocacy for FDA never rests. On the House side, the FY 11 Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill awaits full committee mark-up. On the Senate side, the committee-passed version will be available for consideration on the Senate floor. In the short-term, the numbers in those bills will probably not change.

Our best opportunity will be when the House and Senate try to reconcile their different versions. We will advocate strongly for the higher House numbers. We will also continue to press our case that the agency needs even higher levels to keep up with its expanding mission. While unusual, it is possible to emerge from House-Senate conference with more than the highest proposed level. Last year, $7 million was added to the FDA’s appropriation at the last minute.

Our advocacy has not narrowed to just that opportunity. The Alliance and member organizations continue to press HHS and OMB to provide a significant increase for FDA in the President’s request for FY 12. Even for FY 11, we want to be sure that the Administration will agree if Congress is thinking of increasing FDA’s appropriation. Even a nod from OMB would make it easier for Congress to settle on the House FY 11 numbers, even though it is above the President’s request.  

At the same time, we are working to refine and expand our advocacy documents on FDA’s roles and needs. We are getting help building our current 3-pager on the impact of FDA on the economy into a longer White Paper. We are nearing completion of a three-pager on FDA and national security. We are also planning for further media and Hill outreach.  Congress leaves, but our advocacy for FDA never rests.

Congress will have 2½ weeks to make FY 11 funding decisions. It is a very short time between Congress’s return and the start of FY 11 on October 1. If the pattern follows past years, Congress will try to adopt as many appropriations bills as it can, then roll the rest of the government into a continuing resolution that may last 2 weeks, 6 months or a whole year.

This may not be like past years. It is hard to predict whether Members of Congress will return from recess with more or less fervor about budget cutting. Is this a year when disagreements come down to September 30 and who blinks first about the proper level of federal spending? Might there be cross-the-board cuts in discretionary spending programs?

This is a fight too large for the Alliance to take on … even though it might significantly affect how much funding FDA receives. We have emphasized to Congress, the Administration and the media that FDA needs to be “an exception” to whatever budget cutting occurs. We have had some success. The Administration request for FY 11 provided FDA with a 6% increase, an exception to the fate of most agencies. The House has responded by adding another $55 million above the President’s request. The Senate has adopted the President’s budget. In effect, they all agree that FDA’s budget must be an exception within the overall situation, which is extreme restraint. We will continue to press the “exception” argument, whatever budget-cutting winds are blowing across Capitol Hill during September.

And because the Alliance never rests, we will keep the Friday Updates coming through most of the recess. Despite the seeming lull, we will continue to have important things to say and will be working diligently on our collective cause.

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

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