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Where There’s No Will, There’s No Way

July 18, 2014

As dissussed in last week’s Analysis and Commentary, the smooth, bi-partisan “regular order appropriations” that we all hoped for … is rapidly turning disorderly and partisan. Yet, the appropriations process continues to flow along — more than a trickle, far less than a torrent. The key question: to what end?

The mechanics of appropriations seem to be in place:

  • The House has passed two appropriations bills in the last 2 weeks. Altogether, they have passed seven of 12 appropriations bills and four more have been adopted at the committee level.
  • The Senate — generally slower on moving appropriations bills, even in good years — has passed no appropriations bills. However, eight of 12 bills have been passed out of committee.

In theory, the Congress could get to the finish line on seven to 10 appropriations bills before the new fiscal year starts on September 30. If that occurs, probably the Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill will be one of them. This is not as certain as in some prior years because food stamps and farm bill issues have become more contentious.

More generally, nobody can be sure whether Congress has the requisite will to forge compromises on spending allocations and related policy issues. If not, then a Continuing Resolution is likely to cover all or almost all of the federal government when the new fiscal year begins. And based on last year’s experience, there is the possibility that there could be a government shutdown—although we hope Congress learned its lesson.

Between now and August recess, the fate of the President’s emergency supplemental spending request may be the immediate test of whether compromise is possible. The requested monies are mostly for immigration and border issues, with a smaller amount to cover the higher costs this year of combating wildfires. Haunting this bill are the larger issues of immigration reform and deficit reduction. It is unclear whether the House and Senate, respectively and then in conference, can bridge the differences in their views.  We will see how that plays out.

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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