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IF There Is REALLY a Deal on the Table …

December 6, 2013

I know what you are thinking … because it is what I am thinking. If Senator Murray and Representative Ryan can agree on a modest budget deal, everyone in Congress should be so relieved that the deal will whisk through both House and Senate and head straight to the President’s desk. Then appropriations staff will have nearly a month to put together an omnibus appropriations bill that is a mix of traditional spending bills for most agencies and a Continuing Resolution (CR) for the handful of bills on which there are disagreements.  The “regular order” for appropriations would be restored for FY 14 and maybe FY 15.

From the standpoint of FDA advocacy, this “if/then” would be ideal. Our interest is in the largest possible amount of non-defense monies becoming available through a budget deal. But even more important is that a budget deal puts FDA’s funding fate back in the hand of the appropriators. How can we be sure this would be good? Because FDA does better under both the House and Senate appropriations bills than under the current CR. Few, if any, other non-defense agencies can say this.

However, there is still a serious possibility that a budget deal may not emerge or may fail to pass the House or the Senate. One of the reported sticking points in negotiations is Republican insistence on cuts to federal retirements — a seeming non-starter for House Budget Committee ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Senate Budget Committee chairman, Barbara Mikulski. They are all Maryland Democrats with large federal workforce constituencies.

If a budget deal does emerge and passes both houses, here is a quick guide to how it would affect spending, relative to FY 12, post-sequester FY 13 and the House and Senate marks for FY 14. The total of $1.001 trillion and the defense/non-defense allocation is based on a report in yesterday’s Roll Call. The total in the final deal may be slightly higher or lower, in which case the sector numbers can be adjusted by allocating half of the difference to each.

Sectors Budget Control Act (BCA) ceiling for FY 14 FY 14 Short-term CR (FY 13 post-sequester) House Senate Per Roll Call, possible deal with sector increases split 50-50
Defense $498 billion $517 billion $546 billion $   552 billion $   515 billion
Non-Defense $469 billion $469 billion $421 billion $   504 billion $   486 billion
Total $967 billion $986 billion $967 billion $1,056 billion $1,001 billion

Finally, the legislative vehicle is likely to be a budget bill rather than a budget resolution. The bill, unlike a resolution, could include the changes to the BCA ceilings and related legal changes and could be voted on once by each house. A resolution — because a separate bill amending BCA would be necessary — would require at least two votes.

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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