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Advocacy at a Glance

March 31, 2017

Advocacy at a Glance offers you the bullet point summary of current advocacy issues associated with the goals of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

This week’s Advovacy at a Glance contains brief updates on the President’s FY 17 and FY 18 budget requests. This week’s Analysis and Commentary looks more deeply at the consequences.

  • Next Budget Showdown: The FY17 Continuing Resolution Expires Soon. With the current CR expiring on April 28 and Congress on recess for two of the next four weeks, there was renewed focus this week on how to fund the remaining five months of the year. Reportedly, appropriations staff, on a bipartisan basis, have largely completed an FY 17 omnibus funding bill that reflects subcommittee and committee votes that occurred last year. (If so, FDA might receive a $35M to $40M increase for FY 17.) If the omnibus approach fails to receive sufficient support, the obvious fallback would be for Congress to fund the entire government at its FY 16 level. (If so, FDA would get the same $2.7 billion as it did last year).

However, the politics of the situation are as difficult as the substance is easy. Republicans will need Democrats to buy in: in the House to offset likely “no” votes from fiscal conservatives who always vote against spending bills and in the Senate to get to 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. Into this mix, OMB released the President’s recommendations for FY 17, the centerpiece of which is $18 billion in cuts that would be redirected to the border wall, immigration enforcement, and the proposed defense build-up. (Under his proposal, FDA would be cut $40 million, to be achieved by administrative savings and reflecting slower than anticipated hiring.)

Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are finding themselves in a tight jam. Accommodating the White House will cost them Democratic support, while accommodating Democrats may provoke a Presidential veto. If there is no resolution by April 28, then a government shutdown might occur.

  • Quick Review of How the President’s Initial FY 18 Budget Would Impact FDA.  In the President’s so-called “skinny” budget proposal for FY 18 — released earlier this month — he recommends $54 billion in cuts to non-defense programs in order the increase defense spending by a similar amount.  His proposal for FDA  — which is short on details — appears to keep total FDA funding at the current level. However, it would shift $1 billion from on-budget budget authority (BA) appropriations to off-budget user fees, netting on-budget “paper savings” of $1 billion.

While the authorizing committees have shown no inclination to add $1 billion annually to the agreements already negotiated for FY18-22, the President’s proposal is far from benign for FDA. His proposal will influence how much money each subcommittee is allotted to spend (known as the 302(b) process), with the result that the Senate and House Ag/FDA subcommittee may have significantly less money to spend next year. If the subcommittees wants to honor the President’s request for fully funding the FDA, they would need to come up with $1 billion in additional BA funding to replace the proposed user fee increase that is not going to happen. While not impossible, that will be a steep climb for them.

FDA and the President’s FY 18 request are discussed in more detail in last week’s Analysis and Commentary. We have also attached an analysis done by Dickinson’s FDA Webview, entitled “Trump budget for FDA could risk agency collapse.” We recommend reading both.

  • Gottlieb Confirmation Hearing Scheduled for April 5. The Senate HELP committee will be holding a confirmation hearing next Wednesday, April 5, to review the credentials and ask questions of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s choice for FDA commissioner. The subsequent timing should be interesting. Chairman Alexander is reported to have scheduled a vote right after the hearing.  Since the Senate has a very full schedule next week, it is unclear whether there would be time for the Senate to vote on Dr. Gottlieb’s nomination. If not, Congress is then on a two-week recess, pushing a full Senate vote until the last week in April or early May.

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