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A Time for Prompt, Serious, and Focused Action

May 27, 2011

Starting with a negative number for FDA makes me unhappy. You too?

FDA emerged from Tuesday’s House appropriations subcommittee mark-up facing the possibility of a $285 million cut in FY 12.  The Alliance has issued a press release, additional comment (on this web site), a comparison chart showing proposed funding by center, and a draft of a letter to legislators that contains the Alliance’s core messages.

It actually could have been worse. The total allocation available to the House subcommittee was so low that anything was possible. Thanks to our collective advocacy, the subcommittee knew that it shouldn’t cut FDA at all … and gave us a better number than we might have otherwise received in this budget-deficit-driven, anti-regulatory environment. This gives us hope that a better number (maybe even an increase) is possible as the appropriations process continues.

The House is expected to continue working on agriculture appropriations on an expedited schedule. Full committee mark-up is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 31. We have heard that the full House may take up the bill as early as June 3. More likely the bill will be considered the week of June 13, when the House returns from a recess week.

Through direct advocacy and grassroots efforts, the Alliance is working on getting more funds for the FDA while the agriculture appropriations bill is still in the House. Given the (intentionally) tight House schedule (which makes advocacy more difficult), we face uncertain prospects and, perhaps, daunting odds.

At a minimum, we want House members to recognize that FDA is exceptional because it provides essential public health services that no one else will provide … and that an adequately funded FDA can contribute to our nation’s economic recovery. We want House members to see FDA as one of the places that deserves and needs more money. If additional monies become available later in the appropriations process, we want House members to recognize that FDA is one of the accounts that urgently needs to be restored.

It is generally assumed the Senate will be more favorable to domestic discretionary programs. However, the situation is unclear.  The Senate is at an impasse with regard to a FY 12 Budget Resolution … and the appropriations subcommittees have not yet been given allocations on how much they can spend. The Senate may start to move on appropriations bills in June or early July. More likely there will be no action until the House and Senate reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling, which must be done by August 2.

On one level, the fate of FDA is being decided by factors much larger than the agency, what in past columns I have called the macro-budget issues. With an appropriation of less than $2.5 billion and a vast and essential mission, FDA is not a direct factor in whether the Congress can narrow an annual budget deficit that far exceeds $1 trillion. However, as is the case in the House, the agency can become collateral damage in the battle to spend less.

To be funded as an exception — essentially outside the deficit reduction paradigm — FDA  must be seen in its appropriate light:

  • Americans use FDA-regulated products multiple times each day, assured that the agency is committed to safe foods and safe and effective medical products.
  • These are  services that the American people cannot do without. If FDA cannot perform these services, nobody else will.
  • An adequately funded FDA is in everybody’s interests, including consumers, patients and industry. Everybody benefits when the agency has the resources to provide clear, timely, consistent and reliable science-based guidance.

Please let your Members of Congress know this. Tell the media, as well. Please also let a member of the Alliance’s staff know what you are doing so we can help coordinate. For example, if you develop a letter to members of the House appropriations committees or to your individual House representative, please e-mail us a copy of that letter.

You probably know what to say to Congress and the media. If not, consider the three bullets above, as well as information contained in the various links referred to in the second paragraph of this post. Provide the practical and policy reasons that support agency funding, but don’t hesitate to personalize it to your organization’s interests and the benefits to the American people.

Have a wonderful, safe Memorial Day weekend. Negative numbers can become smaller, sometimes they become plus signs … Let’s work to make that happen for FDA in FY 12.

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

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