Skip to content

On the State of the Union Address

January 29, 2011

ALLIANCE MEMBERSHIP MEETING

An Alliance Membership Meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 8, at 2:00 pm.

Special Guest Speakers: The Alliance is pleased to announce that two members of FDA’s senior leadership team will be guest speakers at the membership meeting:

  • Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods
  • Jesse Goodman, Chief Scientist, Deputy Commissioner for Science and Public Health

The full membership meeting will occur subsequent to the guest speakers.

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee were named this past week. Below is a list of the membership:

Democrats

Daniel Inouye (HI), Chairman Tim Johnson (SD)
Patrick Leahy (VT) Mary Landrieu (LA)
Tom  Harkin (IA) Jack  Reed (RI) (new member)
Barbara Mikulski (MD) Frank Lautenberg (NJ)
Herb Kohl (WI) Ben Nelson (NE)
Patty Murray (WA) Mark Pryor (AR)
Dianne Feinstein (CA) Jon Tester  (MT)
Richard Durbin (IL) Sherrod Brown (OH)

Republicans

Thad Cochran (MS) Lindsey Graham (SC) (new member)
Mitch McConnell ( KY) Mark Kirk (IL) (new member)
Richard Shelby (AL) Dan Coats (IN) (new member)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) Jerry Moran (KA) (new member)
Lamar Alexander (TN) Ron Johnson (WI) (new member)
Susan Collins (ME) John Hoeven (ND) (new member)
Lisa Murkowski ( AK) Roy Blunt (MO) (new member)

Democratic and Republican membership on the Agriculture FDA Subcommittee has not been announced.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Two significant events occurred this week: the President gave his State of the Union address; and the Congressional Budget Office released their latest  economic/deficit report. The President proposed a five-year budget freeze on domestic discretionary spending. The headline for the CBO report was that the projected FY 11 budget deficit would come to $1.5 trillion dollars.

The President’s speech probably set the upper limit for this year’s debate. The options are freeze or cut, rather than spend. Of course, it is hard to reconcile the freeze with the number of federal initiatives that the President proposed to expand (e.g. biomedical research, training of science teachers, renewable fuels, and high-speed rail).

The CBO report had a dampening effect, particularly on Congressional Democrats. The message: “substantial cuts are unavoidable” was heard everywhere on Capitol Hill. This was reflected in the headline of a Roll Call story: Senators in Deficit “State of Shock”: CBO’s Fiscal Jolt Gets Members From Both Parties Calling for Swift Action.

The one good piece of news is that the President is proposing a budget freeze, not a program freeze. A budget freeze is an aggregate number, applying to the total for all domestic discretionary programs. The President plans to propose that some agencies will receive more and others less. This is an environment in which we can make a case that FDA is an exception, an agency that must be funded regardless. We think this a compelling argument.

Here are some other comments on the State of the Union as it effects FDA, ones we used with media:

  • “ We are pleased by the President’s renewed commitment to life sciences’ research, especially biotechnology. The FDA serves an essential role in bringing the fruits of that research to patients. The research investment is lost unless FDA has the funding to review medical products for safety and efficacy.”
  • “We applaud the President’s reference to safe foods as an example of good regulation. FDA’s oversees 80% of America’s food supply. Only a strong FDA can maintain and improve the safety of our food supply.”
  • “In announcing a five-year budget freeze on domestic discretionary programs, the President was clear that some programs will be reduced while others will continue to grow. We are confident that the Administration understands why FDA needs to be one of the agencies that grow.”
  • “The Alliance is aware of the economic and budgetary imperative to control federal spending. Because of decades of funding neglect and rapidly growing responsibilities, the FDA needs to an exception to the budget-cutting that is likely to occur this year and next.  We believe Congress is sympathetic to our viewpoint and that FDA will weather this storm. The Alliance is deeply committed to strengthening FDA through  increased budget authority (BA) appropriations. We will be campaigning hard this year to accomplish this end.”

On how FDA meshes with the President’s call for economic investment, more jobs, and increased exports:

  • “Development of new products and more efficient means of manufacturing and delivery hold the potential for the FDA-regulated portion of the economy to continue to grow in size, employment and exports.”
  • “Foodborne illness costs the US $152 billion per year in health-related costs alone. Additional funding for FDA’s food safety programs are a cost-effective means to significantly reduce this number.”
  • “The FDA-regulated food industry, contributes $1.165 trillion (about 8%) to the US GDP. As a nation, we feed our own people and also much of the world. Without FDA, exports would be greatly reduced because many international buyers would not have the same comfort level in buying from the US.”

The overall budget news is likely to remain bad. We need to keep telling Congress, the media and the public why FDA is “government at its best” and why continued investment is a necessity.

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

RELEVANT MEDIA

Comments are closed.