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The Ryan Era? One Step Closer to the End-Game!

October 23, 2015

With the all-but-certain election of Paul Ryan to be Speaker of the House, there is renewed hope for functional government in the U.S. The most immediate hurdle will be raising the debt ceiling (by November 5), followed by funding the government for all of FY 16 (by December 11). Myriad other pieces of legislation have been deadlocked (e.g., defense authorization bill, year-end tax extenders) and the prospect of their moving is also raising hope in many quarters of DC.

Of course, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. Instead, we have tried to stay in front of Members, staff, and media to keep reminding them of the FDA’s needs and its core role in government, regardless of ideology. Only in retrospect will we know whether FDA received additional resources because we said the right things to the right people on the right day. Just about everybody in DC is in the same position.

As we enter this end-game for budgetary and legislative movement in 2016, here is a recap of what it is the possibilities are for FDA:

The ideal situation — which is a possibility despite being ideal — is that Ryan’s “honeymoon” period extends until the first of January. If so, a budget deal becomes possible. In turn, this would create circumstances conducive to raising the ceiling on domestic discretionary funding. FDA might get a piece of these monies, with food safety the most likely to see the increase.

The worst case situation — sadly also a possibility — is that the political situation doesn’t change very much and there is no movement on budget or appropriations. This would make a year-long Continuing Resolution the most likely outcome. The problem is not just having to live on FY 15’s appropriation in FY 16, but also the many restrictions that go into effect under a CR. Those restrictions are nicely catalogued in a Politico feature article entitled “Welcome to CR Hell.”

There is at least one additional worst case scenario. Congress could adopt an omnibus appropriations bill or CR that exceeds the budget ceilings. This would most likely occur if Congress tried to increase the monies going to defense programs. While that should only trigger a sequestration of defense funds, nothing prevents Congress from overriding the provisions of law that say otherwise. In a sequester scenario, FDA could be at risk of losing up to 5% to 10% of its appropriation.

Between the ideal scenario and the two worst case scenarios, there are a few other possibilities. The most likely is that appropriations bills — as they have passed from committee earlier this year — are wrapped into an omnibus that passes Congress and is signed by the President. In that case, FDA would receive somewhere between $30 and $40 million more this year than in FY 15.

The end-game starts (or so it would appear) when the new House Speaker is elected. What comes next is anyone’s guess, but everyone we know is hoping for functional government.

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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