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One Battle Done, But More to Come

April 15, 2011

ADVOCACY

  • FDA FY11 Continuing Resolution Funding Increase.  Yesterday, Congress passed the FY11 Continuing Resolution which added $107 million increase over FY 10 funding levels for FDA “despite the tremendous downward pressures on the federal budget.”  The Alliance issued a press release.  Under the terms of the Continuing Resolution, the FDA will receive $2.462 billion in budget authority appropriations for FY 11, the current fiscal year.  Please see below for analysis on FDA funding increases under the CR.
  • Debt-Ceiling Limit.  In a letter recently sent to members of Congress, Treasury Secretary Geithner predicted the government would reach the debt-ceiling limit around May 15, and then through “extraordinary methods” could delay reaching the limit to sometime in July.  Many expect the debt-ceiling discussion to include a House Republican-led effort to create limits to future federal spending.
  • Full Membership Meeting, Tuesday, April 26 at 3:00 pm.  Please note that the Alliance’s quarterly membership meeting will occur on Tuesday, April 26.  More details on the meeting will be forwarded in the near-term.
  • Congressional Meetings. The Alliance met with Senator Blunt to discuss the FY 12 budget cycle.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

FDA did very well in the FY 11 Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the government through September 30, 2011. FDA received a $107 million increase in budget authority (BA) appropriations. This is reflected in the chart that shows the final FY 11 funding levels for FDA, compared to the FY 10 levels and the President’s request for FY 12.  Food safety programs received about half of the increase, with the rest shared throughout the agency. The increase — which is critically necessary for FDA to fulfill its mission — was a vast improvement over the low-point, the possibility that FDA would be cut by $241 million.

Apart from the Alliance’s (and its members’) efforts to educate and convince Congress about FDA and its essential role, we can only speculate on what made a difference. Domestic spending cuts were not as large as feared. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as the WIC Program, is costing less this year than last, allowing the Ag Appropriations subcommittee to book a half billion dollars in “cuts” from that program. We have champions on Capitol Hill who understand the importance of FDA and spoke up for us.

FDA may also have been helped by the several CR extensions that were needed. It provided the Alliance and other advocates an opportunity to spread the message that FDA is not like other regulatory agencies that are perceived as barriers to economic growth and business investment. Using our recent white paper on FDA, which describes the agency as a cornerstone of America’s economic future, we were able to highlight why cutting FDA would burden industry, not liberate it. It helped that many industry representatives made multiple Hill visits to validate and reinforce why a well-funded FDA was in the interests of patients, consumers and industry.  

Bottom-line:  FDA will receive a meaningful increase in FY 11 appropriations and  we made progress in explaining to Congress why FDA needs to be an exception to  budget cutting.  

One of television’s first political satire shows (long before Jon Stewart) began with a song: “That was the week that was, It’s over so let it go …” And so we must also let go: there are many battles ahead and resting on our laurels is neither appropriate nor wise. On paper, the next struggle will be over the FY 12 appropriations process. We know that the CR process has just been a warm-up and the main event — substantial downward adjustment to the federal budget — is coming. Next week (with Congress in recess), the Friday Update will look at the schedule and politics of the FY 12 appropriations process.

The traditional appropriations effort may also be overtaken by other events. Today, the House will be adopting a proposed FY 12 budget for the federal government that attempts to “save” $4 trillion over the next 10 years. The budget is not granular enough to cover specific agencies such as FDA. It is designed to be the big-picture of where Congress wants to head. One plank of the House budget bill would take government programs back to their FY 08 levels. Since this would cut roughly 25% from FDA, ($600 to $700 million), it represents the deepest threat to the agency yet. We believe the intention is not that every agency would be cut to FY 08, but rather that the aggregate would be set at that level. Within that limit, there would be winner and losers — some programs may still see increases, while many might suffer cuts well below FY 08. Regardless, the already significant downward pressure on spending will increase.

Also relevant is the debt-ceiling limit, which must be increased before July 8. Missing that deadline is unthinkable; among other things bond markets would react strongly and it would cost the US billions of dollars more to carry the national debt. House Republicans have expressed the desire to use passage of a bill as a level to extract more budget cuts and/or enact mechanisms to further limit spending. In all likelihood, FDA would not be a target in this process, but there is a not insubstantial risk of the agency becoming collateral damage in the fight.

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

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