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When Tough Choices Get Made, FDA Will Prevail

October 10, 2014

In a rare showing of consensus, Congress adjourned earlier than usual in September so that Members would have more time to campaign. With control of the Senate at stake and some key House races hotly contested, political and policy DC is heavily focused on what will happen on November 4, Election Day. This week’s Alliance-only briefing was about that.

In light of the election focus in Washington,  Ladd and I are often asked: what outcome(s) would be best for FDA? As a non-profit organization, the Alliance cannot endorse candidates. This isn’t an issue for us because  FDA’s long-term interests are not particularly related to which Democrats or which Republicans are elected.

Rather, the best outcome for FDA would be the election of individuals — from either party — who are committed to resolving the nation’s budget impasse. The nation’s budget  has only three components: entitlement costs, discretionary spending, and tax revenue. Oversimplifying, Republicans are for cutting entitlements and not increasing taxes … Democrats want to protect entitlements and are willing to see taxes raised if necessary. They are deadlocked.

As a result, Members of Congress have been acting as if the nation’s budget deficit can be substantially reduced by cutting the third element, discretionary federal spending. I think most people on Capitol Hill understand that this won’t actually work — eliminating all federal discretionary spending, including defense, would still not produce a balanced budget in 5 to 8 years. Nonetheless, until Congress acts to break the deadlock, we face untenable pressures to reduce federal programs, including FDA and NIH. This will change eventually because it must; sooner would be much better than later.

For those looking for a short article on the long-term problem and the need to work together, I can suggest this one. Its first paragraph concludes:

Our nation still faces a severe long-term budget imbalance that will force Congress and the president to make choices that both political parties would prefer to avoid.

Breaking the budget impasse/acting on entitlements and taxes would not mean things would be easy for FDA. The agency (and we) will still need to demonstrate FDA’s value to the American people and show that appropriated funding is being spent wisely and effectively.

We believe strongly that when tough choices are made, FDA will prevail as a government priority. The agency provides services and protections that would not occur if it was absent or severely cut back. These are critical messages about FDA that we provide Congress and the media constantly and are the crux of our new series of FDA 101 Hill briefings.

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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