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Hope for Something to Cheer About?

November 22, 2013

We are all hopeful that the House-Senate budget conference produces an agreement that will restore FDA to at least its FY 12, pre-sequester level … But the situation is hard to read. The best sign: legislators finally seem to have the motivation to find an acceptable compromise. Yet, I am still looking for clearer and more meaningful signals of compromise among all the noise of the budgetary debate.

Since the rumor of progress in the budget conference must still be considered “just a rumor,” the most exciting news this week was the letter from House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers and all 12 of his subcommittee chairs to the budget committees. The text of the letter (and also as reported here by Politico) calls

on the Budget Conference to reach an agreement on the FY 2014 and 2015 spending caps as soon as possible to allow the appropriations process to move forward to completion by the January 15 expiration of the current short-term Continuing Resolution.

The letter continues:

If a timely agreement is not reached, the likely alternatives could have extremely damaging repercussions. First, the failure to reach a budget deal to allow Appropriations to assemble funding for 2014 will reopen the specter of another government shutdown. Second, it will reopen the probability of governance by continuing resolution, based on prior year outdated spending needs and priorities, dismissing in one fell swoop all the work done by Congress to enact appropriations bills that reflect the will of Congress and the people we represent.  Third, the current sequester and the upcoming ‘Second Sequester’ in January would result in more indiscriminate across the board reductions that could have negative consequences on critically important federal programs, especially our national defense.

It really is good news that the House Appropriations Committee is asserting the need for common discretionary spending levels “to empower our Committee and the Congress as a whole, to make the responsible spending decisions that we have been elected to make.”

In prior week’s columns, we have discussed why this would be a good outcome for FDA. Notably, the FDA does better under either the House or the Senate appropriations bills than it does under the current CR. When the appropriations committees have the chance to allocate national resources, rather than just apply across-the-board spending formulas, they have repeatedly supported FDA with increased spending levels. When appropriators — particularly in the House where spending pressures are much greater — are saying that they want to lead, then advocates for increased FDA appropriations have something to cheer about.

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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