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Refining the Fine Art of Can-Kicking

March 4, 2011

ADVOCACY

  • Economic Impact of FDA Paper. On Monday, the Alliance will release its paper on the economic impact of the FDA. This paper helps to establish the critical role the FDA plays in the U.S. economy, and will be an important resource to explain why cutting the FDA could actually hurt, not help, the U.S. economy.
  • House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Hearing, Friday, March 11. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to testify on the agency’s FY 2012 Budget Request.
  • Meetings with Senate Agriculture Appropriators: The Alliance met with the offices of five members of Senate Agriculture Appropriations committee this past week.
  • What can you do to help prevent the FDA budget from being cut:
  1. Plan to come to Alliance for a Stronger FDA Hill day on March 16. It is less than a month away.  Please put it on your calendar – we need all the help we can get.
  2. Help us on our messaging. We need alliance members to tell us: what good things has FDA been able to do with increased funding the last few years.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Congress passed a two-week extension of the FY 11 Continuing Resolution, covering government funding until March 18. There are $4 billion in “cuts” in this CR, which greased the path for the extension. And, of course, the government didn’t shut down. Congress even got it done early enough to go home on Friday. No drama, plenty of relief.

The best news is that FDA will continue to be funded at the FY 10 level, at least until March 18. We certainly want higher funding for the agency in FY 11, but FY 10 levels will at least keep agency programs intact and wouldn’t require any lay-offs.

However, as is often the case with Congress, there is far less agreement than this set of actions suggest. They have kicked the can further down the road, but there is not even a hint of how the two Houses are going to resolve:

  • Over $50 billion in current year cuts in HR 1 versus the presumed Senate opening (and preferred) position of flat funding for FY 11 at the FY 10 levels;
  • The addition of controversial social issues in the House bill and defunding of health care reform.

Neither will fly in the Senate.

Most pundits seem to think Congress will kick the can down the road for another 4 weeks. This will provide more time for negotiations … and hopefully resolve into passage of a long-term CR before Congress takes its Spring Recess from April 15 to May 2 (including the weekends on both ends, which the House and Senate calendars conveniently portray as DC work time).

Under the current House-set ground rules, the Senate must agree to $2 billion more in cuts for each week of a CR extension. This would require the House and Senate to come up with $8 billion more in cuts by March 18. It remains to be seen how hard this will be. The $4 billion cut agreed to this week was more shadow than substance — early termination of programs President Obama wanted to end in FY 12 anyway… and rescission of unspent FY 10 earmarks that would have had to be re-appropriated before they could be spent. Is there another $8 billion that can be found this easily?

Either way, the showdown over big cuts, social issues and health care reform funding can’t be avoided. If it doesn’t occur before March 18, then it will occur before April 15. And if somehow it doesn’t get resolved this year, it will recur with the FY 12 appropriations cycle.

It is true that we live in interesting times. It is equally true that FDA is in peril until the Congress evaluates the agency’s funding needs based on its essential role and its growing responsibilities, rather than some yardstick under which all government programs are forced to accept cuts.

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

RELEVANT MEDIA/DOCUMENTS

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