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No One’s Talking Till 302(b) Allocations Get Made

April 19, 2014

After much contention, the FY 14 appropriations process turned out quite favorably for FDA. The agency received a budget authority appropriation of $2.561 billion. This was the largest number under consideration by either the House or Senate. It was also about $200 million above the FY 13 post-sequester funding and $55 million above FY 12, the previous funding high point. In addition, Congress restored the FY 13 sequestered user fees. Altogether, FDA’s funding did better than other health and agriculture programs.

As we look to do even better in FY 15, we face a macro-budgetary climate that has grown even more hostile. Total discretionary spending — more than $1 trillion in FY 14 — is slated to grow by only $2 billion in FY 15. Further, certain programs will automatically cost more– because they have a mandatory component, are funded by formula, or for technical reasons. Thus, the appropriations committees will actually control less money in the aggregate than they did in FY 14.

Exactly how much less there will be to spend in FY 15 — and where it will be spent — has yet to be determined. Both House and Senate have deferred deciding on the so-called 302(b) allocations, which divide the budget spending cap among the 12 appropriations subcommittees. In order to start moving the Military Construction/Veterans and the Legislation Branch funding bills, which the House Appropriations Committee has done, the House released an interim subcommittee allocation. It provides no clue about how much the agriculture/FDA subcommittee will have to spend.

At one point, we had hoped that the House and Senate would agree in advance on the 302(b) allocations — so that each House subcommittee would have the same amount as its Senate counterpart and vice versa. Our current best information is that this will not occur and each body will proceed with its own subcommittee allocation.

We have also been told that the House may allocate less money to the Labor-HHS subcommittee in order to reduce funding for the Affordable Care Act. If so, other House subcommittees, including agriculture/FDA, are likely to have more to spend than their Senate colleagues. This may lead to a reversal of the pattern over the last several years where the Senate has provided FDA with more funding than the House.

Based on our meetings since January, we believe that there is widespread understanding on Capitol Hill that FDA’s mission and responsibilities are expanding and strong sentiment to preserve FDA’s funding gains. However, no one is saying whether an increase is possible until 302(b) allocations are made.

Note: This week’s analysis and commentary was written by Steven Grossman, the deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA

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