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Making the Case … Senate Side

June 30, 2011

The Alliance continues to make its case for FDA funding on the Senate side. Overall, it is encouraging to see so much interest in FDA and understanding for the agency’s plight. But no one had much insight into what the Senate will do next on appropriations, nor was their great optimism that any agency or program will do well. Here are some notes from our Senate meetings:

  • We received positive feedback on the Alliance’s fundamental position: programs that are the necessities of a stable functional society must be funded regardless of the overall budget situation. When Congress makes those judgments, FDA should (properly) be seen in the same company as national defense and air traffic controllers … rather than with other programs.
  • The threat from the House position is still under-appreciated. Many offices did not understand that the House FY 12 position on FDA funding (a $285 million cut) is larger than the cut we faced in FY 11 in the House-passed HR 1 (a $242 million cut).
  • As offices see ever more intense lobbying in defense of specific programs, we receive favorable feedback on how the Alliance represents all the stakeholders and are sticking with our issue. We heard several stories about how organizations were directing their members to be aggressive advocates for deficit reduction, while simultaneously pleading their own cases.
  • As reported in last week’s update, the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill is moving forward on the Senate side. Staffers were clear that this was an exception — the Senate was using the House bill as a baseline and it is usually the least controversial appropriations bill. There is a chance that Homeland Security may be handled on the same basis. Apart from that, the Senate expects to wait to do appropriations bills after the President and Congress cut a deal on the debt ceiling bill.

In our meetings, we started discussing the FDA report on imports (just released last week). There was a lot of interest in the issue, as well as immediate understanding on the part of Hill staffers as to how this related to FDA as essential to preservation of a stable, functioning society. Some highlights from the report that impressed Hill offices:

  • A decade ago, 6 million shipments of FDA-regulated goods passed through our nation’s 300 ports; this year the number will quadruple to 24 million shipments.
  • Currently, 60% of fruits and vegetables and 80% of seafood consumed in the US are imported. About 80% of active ingredients found in pharmaceutical products (not finished products) originated abroad. More than 35% of the US medical equipment market is imported devices.
  • FDA-regulated products come from roughly 200 countries, using 825,000 importers through over 300 US ports-of-entry.

Once the Senate returns from recess, we expect to push harder on some of these import issues. Along with our points about safe foods and more/better medications, the safety/quality issues raised by imports captured attention, interest and sympathy.

Have a great holiday weekend. Relax, enjoy family, think about the greatness of our country and its history. When the Senate (and we) return, it will be time to re-dedicate ourselves to the day-to-day aspects of government that don’t always seem to reflect that greatness. Our small but important part — advocacy for funding of the US Food and Drug Administration — needs to be one of the bridges to a strong America.

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

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