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Could FDA See More Than a $50 Million Increase for FY 12?

September 30, 2011

Congress returns next week. Hopefully, the House will agree to the Senate’s version of the 7-week continuing resolution and appropriators can get back to the business of agreeing upon regular appropriations bills for FY 11. Ultimately, there may be one omnibus bill, but the stated goal is for it to contain year-long funding for all agencies based on the work of the appropriations subcommittees.

FDA, as part of the FY 12 Agriculture Appropriations bill, is in an interesting situation. The bill was one of the first to be considered by the House earlier this year and was based on the aggregate spending targets in the House (Ryan) Budget Resolution. The aggregate spending target contained in the Budget Control Act (BCA) (passed mid-summer by Congress) is much higher.

The current House position, of cutting FDA by $285 million in FY 12, is in the context of significantly lower aggregate spending. The Senate didn’t mark up Agriculture Appropriations until September and allocated a $50 million increase to FDA based on the higher BCA spending levels. Thus, the House and Senate recommendations are not comparable. If the House had had more money to spend, it seems reasonable to assume that FDA would have gotten some of it … perhaps as much or more than what is in the Senate bill.

This is borne out, at least possibly, by the House’s proposed spending levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), just released on September 29 and consistent with the higher aggregate spending allowed by BCA. While the bill still will need to be marked-up by the subcommittee and the full committee, the House is proposing a number higher than the Senate. As reported by Research!America: “The difference between the House and the Senate mark is a staggering $1.2 billion (a cut of $190 million in the Senate bill vs. an increase of $1 billion in the House bill). The House number would provide a 3.3% increase for NIH.” A summary of the proposed House bill is available by clicking here.

What would the House’s position on FDA funding have been if the Agriculture Appropriations bill had been marked up after the BCA, instead of before, as was the case for NIH? No one can know for sure. At some point over the next couple of weeks, staffers for the House and Senate agriculture/FDA appropriations subcommittees will be meeting to hammer out the final numbers. Overall, they will have the same amount to work with as the Senate used in its mark-up. For the House, this means having extra money to spend above the levels in the House-passed bill. They will need to decide which agriculture/FDA programs should be increased, then negotiate with Senate staff on that basis.

Could FDA wind up with more than a $50 million increase that the Senate proposed for FY 12? Absolutely. This could happen if the House views FDA as a pre-eminent priority for funding … the way it has for NIH. There are some obvious differences: the two agencies are funded by separate subcommittees that are not under the same funding and political constraints; and FDA is a public health/regulatory agency, while NIH is a biomedical research agency. Also, it appears that the House Republican strategy might be to provide increases for NIH, Head Start, and certain educational programs by zeroing (or substantially reducing) some Senate priorities it opposes (e.g., anything related to implementation of health care reform). If so, NIH could be caught in a political cross-fire independent of the merits of its cause.

Even still, there are good reasons to fund both agencies with increases in FY 12. We are rooting for the House to see it that way.

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