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Omnibus, Minibus, or Any Type of Bus at All?

September 9, 2016

As can be seen on the chart below, the House and Senate are looking to provide FDA with $35 to $40 million in additional funding for FY 17. This would be lost under a long-term Continuing Resolution.

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Even a short-term Continuing Resolution works to FDA’s disadvantage (e.g., through December 9). Not only is it the same level as last year’s monies (and costs have increased), but the agency is directed to “continue” its FY 16 activities. This makes planning difficult, hiring with BA monies risky, and generally slows new non-emergency initiatives.

One part of the Continuing Resolution process that might slow things down is establishing an agreed upon list of anomalies. If an agency or program or provision of law expires on September 30, 2016, it will usually continue to be funded or stay in effect by being extended under the CR. These are called anomalies. To accomplish this, OMB puts together a list and sends it to the appropriations committees. Often a CR is referred to as “clean,” because it extends spending at the previous year’s level and contains only the OMB list of anomalies. You will hear discussions about various provisions that Senators and Congressmen want to offer for inclusion in the CR. While this usually slows the process, it is more probable than not that the forthcoming CR will have Zika funding but otherwise be “clean.”

Assuming a CR is adopted through December 9, the next step will be for the appropriations committees to see whether any of the 12 appropriations bills can be conferenced and sent to the President. If any pass before December 9, they will replace the CR for the agencies covered by the bill. One possibility is to pull all the appropriations bills into one bill (an omnibus) or to put several appropriations bills together but not all of them (a so-called minibus).

As simple as the CR process can be under ideal conditions, most likely Congress will take at least a couple of weeks to work out the details and pass this year’s short-term CR.

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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