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The Takeaway From Hill Day

March 19, 2011

ADVOCACY

  • Stronger FDA Hill Day.  This past week the Alliance held a successful “Stronger FDA Hill Day.”  Sixty individuals from member organizations of the Alliance spent the day on the Hill spreading the word about the importance of an adequately funded FDA, meeting with over 50 Congressional offices.   Since we had previously met with many appropriators, the lobby day focused primarily on authorizers and freshman members.   Thank you to all Alliance participants who took part in the day, rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to advance a critical mission.
  • Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Hearing.  FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified yesterday on the agency’s FY 2012 Budget Request.  A copy of Commissioner Hamburg’s submitted testimony can be viewed here.
  • FY 2011 Continuing Resolution. Yesterday Congress passed the sixth Continuing Resolution for FY 2011.  The measure keeps the government running through April 8.

ANALYSIS AND COMENTARY

Every year about this time, I write a column that starts: “Another Alliance Hill Lobby day is in the books.” And so it is this year, with a large, multi-stakeholder group of Alliance members meeting with more than 50 Hill offices. Everywhere we went, staffers told us of their bosses’ commitment to significant and widespread cuts in federal spending.

Nonetheless, with a few exceptions, the offices were interested in learning more about FDA. They were generally positive about monies being allocated based on national priorities rather than by “across the board” decisions.

We welcomed the opportunity to explain why FDA needs to be an exception based on the mission and activities of the agency. The newly released Alliance white paper, “FDA: A Cornerstone of America’s Economic Future,” proved a valuable tool in explaining why cutting FDA was counter-productive to the goal of reducing deficits and creating new jobs. We also pointed out that FDA is a different kind of regulatory agency because all stakeholders agree that a stronger, better funded FDA is in their interests, as well as that of the nation.

We were encouraged … even while it was reinforced to us that FY 11 and FY 12 will be bad budget years for almost all federal agencies and programs. The meetings on Lobby Day, as well as prior meetings with appropriations staff, pointed us toward a difficult — but possibly not insurmountable — path to preserve the agency’s budget.

To keep all Alliance members current, here is the general outline of the messages we presented:

  • Breadth: FDA is a pre-eminent public health agency that assures that our food supply is safe and that drugs, vaccines and medical devices are safe and effective. Its mandate includes a number of other important public health purposes from over-the-counter drugs to pet food, from bottled water to dietary supplements and from cosmetics to standards for radiation-emitting devices, such as cell phones. Multiple times every day, Americans use products for which FDA has oversight responsibilities. There is no back-up if the agency isn’t there.
  • Impact: FDA oversees nearly 25% of all consumer spending — assuring safe foods, safe and effective medical products, etc. The economic impact of the industries and products the agency oversees is enormous — and has the potential to lead growth in our economy and job development (see our white paper). Unlike other regulatory agencies, a strong FDA is welcomed by the industries it oversees.
  • Funding Needs: FDA has been severely underfunded for decades. Funding is needed to catch up with globalization and the increasing complexity of science. Nanotechnology is just one example of new science that is developing into job growth and a plus for economy. It is equally important to appreciate how much the FDA-regulated industries are growing, which requires more FDA resources to keep up.
  • FDA’s job is much like national defense — essential to our nation’s well-being … and providing protection that is apt to be taken for granted until a crisis occurs. Even with economic pressures to decrease the deficit, now is not the time to cut the FDA. It would be short sighted for the American public and the growth of industries that want a strong FDA.

Meantime, Congress passed yet another short-term Continuing Resolution, funding government through April 8. Repeatedly, we were told how tired Members are of this back-and-forth over FY 11. Most feel that there will so much to do with the Federal government for FY 12 (including, perhaps, a larger “deal” that includes appropriations, entitlements and taxes) … that they want to be done with the current year, so they can get started on FY 12. Congress is on recess next week. Reportedly, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and OMB director Jack Lew will be meeting. Hopefully, there will be progress. More on this next week.

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

RELEVANT MEDIA/DOCUMENTS

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