Skip to content

The Next 60 Legislative Days in DC

April 22, 2011


Last week, we examined the favorable outcome for FDA from the FY 11 appropriations process. We then described the FY 12 budget process and the debt ceiling legislation, both of which will complicate the process by which FDA’s FY 12 appropriation will be determined.

Yet another consideration is “budget reconciliation,” a mechanism by which committees other than appropriations are directed to produce “cuts” in mandatory programs or changes in taxes.  For example, if Medicare is to produce long-term “savings” starting in FY 12, then the House Ways and Means committee (and the Senate Finance Committee) will have to do the work, not the appropriations committees. I have not heard any of the political leaders discussing reconciliation, so the process may be informal this year, rather than mandated by the budget resolution. In any case, if the goal is to cut hundreds of billions (not to mention trillions) … it can’t be accomplished by the appropriations committees alone.

Congress returns on May 2. The end of the fiscal year (on September 30, 2011) seems distant, but it will be here quickly. Of the 22 weeks to complete FY 12 appropriations this fiscal year, the House will only be in DC for 15 weeks and the Senate for 16 weeks. And for several of the House breaks, the Senate won’t be in session and vice versa. In short, there are probably about 60 legislative days to resolve the budget and any reconciliation, handle the debt ceiling, and complete 12 appropriations bills. Presumably, there are other major non-budget issues that will need House and Senate floor time, as well.

Despite all of these distractions and limitations, the appropriations committees are on an aggressive schedule. No one wants a repeat of the FY 11 process that consumed 15 months between the release of the President’s budget in February 2010 to final resolution in April 2011. The reality isn’t clear, but here is what we can provide in the way of guidance:

  • Both the House and the Senate conducted hearings in March at which FDA presented — and then was grilled on — the President’s request for FY 12.
  • Select committee (S/C) mark-ups — as early as May; more likely in June.
  • Full committee mark-ups — maybe as early as 2 days after S/C mark-ups to 6 weeks afterward, in June to September.
  • Appropriations bills see floor action — planned for June/July but it is predictable that a number of appropriations bills won’t be ready before September.
  • Some portion of the government — perhaps all of it — will need funding through a Continuing Resolution on October 1.

I was taught the value of having a “tolerance for ambiguity.” The Alliance has geared up for the FY 12 appropriations process with that in mind. We will be ready … whenever and wherever FDA funding is to be decided.

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

Comments are closed.