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Let’s Get the Ag/FDA Appropriations Bill into Law

June 3, 2016

Politico reported this week that a “spending clash looms for GOP.” The gist of the story is that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made passage of appropriations bills the centerpiece of his efforts to demonstrate that the Senate works better with Republican rather than Democratic leadership. With his blessing, the Senate appropriations committee has passed 8 of 12 appropriations bills and they are largely clean of controversial political amendments. Three of those 8 have passed the Senate, as well.

In contrast, House Speaker Ryan has promised a more open process of legislating, allowing Members to pursue appropriations amendments of both fiscal and political impact. As a result, the House has only passed one appropriations bill (the relatively easy Military Construction/Veterans Affairs); others are bogging down in controversy. The Politico article suggests that Speaker Ryan may need to enforce greater discipline, but may find that further divides his Republican caucus.

The point: there is a serious possibility that some or all appropriations bills may not pass this year. Problems in the House are one reason, but even the Senate is not guaranteed a smooth process when individual bills come to the floor. Add to this the threat of presidential vetoes for appropriations bills with politically-motivated amendments, there is a possibility the whole appropriations process may break down. This might lead to an omnibus bill with spending levels intact from House and Senate bills or it might ultimately lead to a 6-month or longer continuing resolution set at FY 16 levels.

Why is a 6-month- or year-long CR possible — when Congress typically resolves appropriations disputes in November or December? Primarily, because no one should assume that a lame duck session will occur or that it will be productive. That depends on a lot of factors, of which election outcomes (new President, who controls the Senate, how big is the Republican margin in the House) are variables that are impossible to predict.

A continuing resolution is the worst case scenario for FDA. Without additional monies, the agency will find it even more difficult to carry out its mission and meet its responsibilities. Compounding this, all federal agencies have difficulty planning work, hires, priorities, etc., when there are prolonged funding uncertainties. FDA will have to suffer through this.

So, while we work for more funding … let’s also commit to getting the Ag/FDA appropriation into law, even if it is one of only a handful that get through.

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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