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The Same New Groundhog Day All Over Again?

September 24, 2010

ADVOCACY

White House-Domestic Policy Council Meeting.  We are pleased to announce that the Alliance is meeting with the Domestic Policy Council next week to discuss FDA resources.  

Alliance Board/Annual Membership Meetings

  • Alliance Board Meeting: Thursday, October 14 at 2:00 pm
  • Annual Member Meeting: Wednesday, October 27th at 2:00 pm

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The current appropriations situation reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day.” As you may recollect, the “hero” keeps waking up each morning to find it is still February 2 and he has been granted the (unwanted) opportunity to do something different with that day. I haven’t seen the movie recently, but I recollect that he wakes up to “the same new day” at least 12 times.

If Congress proceeds as expected, sometime next week the House and the Senate will pass a Continuing Resolution for FY 11 Appropriations. This takes all of the uncompleted appropriations bills and rolls them into one omnibus bill. The text should conform with what has passed in subcommittees and committees on the House and Senate sides. In reality, it can’t because the aggregate spending levels under the CR are likely to be less than what committees were given to work with.

Hopefully, the CR will be done by Thursday night, since the new fiscal year starts on Friday, October 1 at 12:01 a.m. If  they can’t agree on what it means to keep the bill “simple” and without controversy, there will be a 2 or 3 day CR and they will wake up to “the same new day” over that weekend. In either case, when they reach agreement on the “simple” CR, it will provide a formula for keeping the federal government running through the week of November 15.

When Congress returns after the election, they will again waken to face “the same new day.” They will be arguing about the funding formula, the length of the CR and where exceptions are to be made.  They will also try to get sufficient agreement on the text of a CR that can pass both Houses. This may be the last legislative vehicle to pass before Congress adjourns. So, it is safe to assume that every Member of Congress and every interest group will be looking to get something favorable added into the CR. It is the very embodiment of von Bismarck’s aphorism that people who love sausage and respect the law … shouldn’t watch how either are made.

At this point, it is impossible to predict how many times “the same new day” will repeat — either in 2 or 3 day CRs or longer.  It also depends on the election. If the Democrats retain their majorities, then it is possible that a CR later this year will extend through September 30, 2011. If the Republicans take one or both Houses, then they are not likely to agree on a CR that goes beyond February, when they will have more control and more votes.

For FDA, there will also be “the same new day” repeated several times. In the past, the agency’s champions on Capitol Hill have put extra money in to pay for FDA’s escalating responsibilities. In an earlier year, every domestic program was funded at the level from the prior year, which is equivalent to a minimum 5% decrease in agency resources. There were about 5 exceptions where agencies received increases and FDA was one of them.

Will that happen for FY 11? And will it happen in next week’s CR or some later version? If added, might it be stripped out in some subsequent CR?  

With your help, the Alliance is and will continue to fight for FDA through every iteration of the CR. We will argue, as we have successfully in the past, that FDA must be an exception when budget cuts are made. The health and well-being of the American people is at stake.  

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

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