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Another Busy Year for the Alliance

January 13, 2012

Welcome to 2012. The House comes back into session for a couple of days next week and then starts in earnest on January 23. The Senate will be back in session on the 23rd as well. The President’s FY 13 budget request is locked down, but won’t be released for several weeks. Meantime, the Alliance is hard at work on supporting the highest possible appropriations level for FDA in FY 13, in what is sure to be an extremely tough year.

Here is a likely calendar for 2012:

President Obama delivers the State of the Union Address (SOTU) to Congress (most likely date is Tuesday, January 24, 2012). This will include the President’s assessment of the country’s accomplishments and issues … and sets forth his priorities for 2012 and for the FY 13 budget. Typically, the address covers very broad themes — war and peace, the economy and jobs, major program initiatives, etc. We would not expect an FDA or a food and drug reference in the speech, but it is always a possibility.

About one to two weeks after the SOTU (usually early February), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) releases the President’s Budget Request for FY 13. This will be the first opportunity to view the President’s full request for FDA — both the aggregate amount requested, the break-out by centers and any new initiatives.

Appropriations committees will hold hearings between March and May. Following the patterns of the last few years, there may only be one hearing in the House and one in the Senate … and FDA is likely to be the only witness. The Alliance will submit testimony to each. The main force of the Alliance’s effort will be meetings with Members of Congress and their staff, staff briefings and grassroots meetings.

Given that it is a Presidential election year, the appropriations committees will <em.plan to mark-up bills in committee by May/June, get floor action in June/July and have bills sent to the President by late July. A few bills might need to be finished off in September. Because the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) sets aggregate spending ceilings for domestic programs for FY 13, one of the big delays in 2011 will not recur this year. On the other hand, the FY 13 ceilings set by BCA are very low.

However, despite the efforts of the appropriations committees, appropriations bills are rarely enacted early in Presidential election years. While we proceed on the assumption of the fast schedule, it would not be surprising if some or all of the government is funded on a continuing resolution on October 1, 2012, with final decisions deferred to a post-election session.

Finally, on January 2, 2013, deficit reduction cuts are mandated in the amount of $1.2 trillion in 10-year program savings. These will be accomplished by across-the-board cuts (“sequestration”) and will mostly hit discretionary domestic and defense spending … unless Congress passes legislation that would raise these monies by entitlement cuts or additional tax revenue or otherwise changes the law. The impact on FDA is likely to be a cut of between $150 and $250 million. Any sequestration cuts would be on the FY 13 appropriated or CR level for the agency.

In sum, 2012 will be a busy year for the Alliance, with a large number of challenges to FDA’s appropriation.

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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