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Getting Down to the Wire

April 7, 2011

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

In our immediately preceding post we declared this “the week of three potential outcomes” about the FY 11 Continuing Resolution. As of this Thursday morning, no one — including House and Senate leadership — can be certain how it will turn out.

Here are the updates:

  • Another CR extension until April 15 (a week later). Everyone on the Hill is tired of the endless CR process. Nonetheless, it is hard to see a final deal, legislative language and passage by House and Senate occurring before Friday. If a deal is cut, there could be a 2 or 3 day CR to avoid a shut-down. If there is no deal and Congress needs another week, the House has offered to pass such legislation if it includes another $12 billion in cuts and insulates DOD from any further threats to its budget. The Senate is less than enthused about this offer and we believe it is dead. More palatable variations might start to appear later today and almost certainly tomorrow.
  • A deal is cut and an FY 11 CR is passed. At the beginning of the week, everyone was optimistic that things would fall into place, starting with an agreement that FY 11 cuts would total $33 billion. There would still be jockeying about where the cuts would come from and disagreements about policy riders, but a deal seemed possible. As this is written, House Speaker John Boehner’s public position is that it will take $40 billion in cuts to get a deal done. In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — who was certain he had a deal at $33 billion in cuts — has said: “Democrats’ bottom line hasn’t changed. Republicans’ bottom line hasn’t stayed still.” Things seemed to look better yesterday afternoon, but it is hard to tell whether last night’s meeting at the White House was productive. Regardless, the sides still seem very far apart based on public rhetoric; behind-the-scenes is unknown.
  • The government shuts down at midnight on April 8.  Neither side wants a shut-down. Even more, neither side wants to be the one blamed if the government closes. On Tuesday and Wednesday, federal agencies put the finishing touches on their contingency plans if no CR is adopted. Starting today, federal agencies will have a better sense of how to proceed, although very little detail has been made public and there seems to be a lot of confusion within agencies. A lot of experienced Washington observers still think there won’t be a shut-down, but the window to get a deal done is narrowing quickly.

All of these scenarios would have an impact on FDA, but without firm numbers it is impossible to say what the impact would be. We assume that appropriations staffers continue to negotiate and most numbers are, at least tentatively, set. However, we know of no cause or interest group that claims to have the “current” Hill numbers. Even if they did, some numbers are certain to change before a final deal is reached.

What can Alliance members do? If you have a personal relationship with a Member of Congress or their staff, please remind them that FDA funding is important. If you lobby on Capitol Hill, we ask that you present our messages to leadership and appropriations committee members. For those meeting with House Republicans in particular, our  experience over the last 10 days is that there is strong receptivity to the message: industry supports a well-funded agency. Through our economic paper and via Hill visits with industry, we have been able to draw a sharp contrast between FDA and other regulatory agencies that the Hill sees as barriers to economic growth and job creation.

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