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Are We Really Halfway There … or Not?

December 10, 2010

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Yesterday, we sent a special update to Alliance members reporting on the full-year FY 11 Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House of Representatives. The update is available by clicking here.  

It looks like we are halfway there. All that remains is for the Senate to pass their omnibus bill and reconcile the differences with the House. That’s particularly attractive because the House CR gives FDA an increase in funding for FY 11, on par with the President’s request. Reportedly, there will be a higher overall spending total in the planned Senate omnibus, giving us hope that the Senate will propose at least as much FDA funding as the House CR.

Unfortunately, we cannot assume we are halfway there … and we really might not be.  There are a number of scenarios that can disrupt the process:

  • There may not be 60 votes in the Senate for the omnibus.
  • Nothing will pass the Senate before the tax bill/extension of unemployment benefits is resolved and that situation has become more complex since a compromise was announced on Tuesday.
  • Congress is determined to adjourn by December 18, when the current short-term CR expires. A short-term extension until next year may be necessary.
  • It may be difficult to reconcile House-Senate differences on appropriations. Notably, it may not be easy to agree on overall and programmatic funding levels and also the use of earmarks.
  • Many Republicans are opposed to anything but a short-term CR and many others are ambivalent at best.

 
Yet another possibility is that full-year appropriations (CR or omnibus) only becomes politically feasible if the aggregate level of spending is pushed downward by another $10 to $20 billion. Then a broad range of programs would need to be funded at levels lower than now planned.

While these are all possibilities, we still have a reasonable hope of success in getting FDA an increase for FY 11.  We may be halfway there. The senators and representatives driving this appropriations endgame have decades of experience in assuring that the federal government is funded. They have certainly faced more difficult situations and prevailed.

Further, the House CR, which funds most of the government at the FY 10 level, has demonstrated that the House recognizes FDA as one of the agencies that continues to need funding increases.  Another short-term CR, like the current one, may hold the entire government at FY 10 levels. But there is also a chance that under those circumstances a handful of programs will still get increases. This happened several years ago and FDA was one of the few agencies that received more monies when everyone else was flat-funded.

We will keep you informed as things develop. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail Ladd Wiley or e-mail me.  

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

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