Skip to content

The Best Laid Plans … Meet Disaster (Relief)

September 23, 2011

Last week, we laid out Congress’ intended FY 12 appropriations plan and schedule. A continuing resolution would pass this week to fund government from October 1 to November 18 at the level of FY 11 minus 1.5%. The House and Senate would then go on recess next week. They would return the first week in October and spend the following 6 weeks hammering out appropriations bills. Rather than another CR on November 18, the goal was to adopt an omnibus bill with all 12 appropriations bills included.

I also wrote: “a thousand different things could upset this plan.” Mostly, I was thinking ahead: What if the supercommittee decided it wanted to retain the option to cut FY 12 appropriations in December? What if the Congress couldn’t agree on the funding levels or other details in all 12 appropriations bills?

Instead, problems arose immediately, with the failure of the FY 12 Continuing Resolution to pass the House on Wednesday. The issue is not the CR funding formula (FY 11 minus 1.5%), but rather how much disaster relief spending would be included in the CR and whether it should be partially offset by cuts.

In the early hours of Friday, the House passed a new CR that wasn’t much different than the one that failed on Wednesday. The Senate took the bill up around noontime and tabled it, effectively killing it. As this is being written (early Friday afternoon), it is not clear whether the House or the Senate will make the next move. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it will run out of disaster relief funds on Monday and, without a CR, the government will effectively shut-down on October 1 (although the impact won’t be felt until October 3, the start of the work week).

We don’t know how this will end … and it may take the weekend or even Monday or Tuesday to be resolved. At the moment, no one believes that there will be a government shutdown on October 1. If a 7-week CR becomes impossible, then perhaps the CR will only extend for a week or two into the new fiscal year.

As long as the CR is only for 7 weeks (or less), FDA’s stake in the details is not great. “FY 11 minus 1.5%” is really a standstill agreement, while the appropriations bills are being worked out. For 7 or 8 weeks, FDA’s program and staffing will not be affected very much.

We are far more concerned about how the House and Senate decide to resolve differences between their versions of the Agriculture-FDA appropriations bill. We feel confident that the House will come up from its current position: funding FDA at $285 million below the agency’s FY 11 appropriation. That would be an 11.5% cut.

But how far is the House willing to go? Our advocacy and outreach efforts are aimed in achieving at least the Senate position of $50 million above the FY 11 appropriations (plus 2%). With continuing pressures from globalization and imports and the costs of implementing new programs (food safety modernizations, biosimilars), the Senate monies will not go far. We know only that “some increase” has to be much better than “no increase” or a cut.

We think lawmakers will act in October to resolve differences in the Ag-FDA appropriations bill for FY 12. First, however, they have to find a way to resolve their dispute over the CR.

Comments are closed.