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Advocacy at a Glance

January 19, 2018

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.

  • Government Shutdown Seems Likely; Duration is Unknown. As of the publication time on Friday (4:00 p.m. Eastern time), a government shutdown is likely, starting at midnight, Friday, January 19. The House passed a 30-day Continuing Resolution (CR) late Thursday night, even with the foreknowledge that there would not be 60 votes to support it in the Senate. As reported by CQ Rollcall this morning: “It will take unanimous consent of 100 senators to keep the government from at least a brief shutdown. The Senate adjourned after 10 p.m. Thursday, leaving less than a day in session to try to avert a funding lapse that was appearing inevitable, without votes scheduled on anything resembling a deal that could win bipartisan support.”

The immediate consequences of a federal government shutdown over a weekend are quite minimal (i.e. much of the weekend workforce are law enforcement, air traffic controllers, NSA surveillance, postal workers, etc. who for various reasons are not going to be furloughed anyway). Apart from the media focus on “the government is closed,” Congress’ real deadline for avoiding a shutdown is sometime in the early morning on Monday. Said another way: they need to pass something in time for federal workers to wake up Monday morning and find out from OPM whether to report at their usual time.

Meantime, the situation is likely to change hourly and there is no way to know how and when things will be resolved. As you hear further news, look for which of four possibilities emerge:

    • Congress passes a CR by midnight tonight, either (1) a 30-day CR or (2) a 1- to 5-day CR that would keep government open, but keep the pressure for a deal on
    • Government shuts down at midnight and either (3) Congress passes a short-term CR before Sunday midnight or (4) Congressional leaders or the President decide to let the shutdown play out for a few days to see who gets blamed.
  • What Happens to FDA in a Shutdown? Like most federal agencies, a significant number of FDA employees (42% of the workforce) would be furloughed if a shutdown occurs. The impact would be uneven, with most food functions unstaffed (except port inspections and certainly regulatory enforcement activities), while the Tobacco Center will be fully staffed. Excepted from the furlough are commissioned corps officers, building and data security personnel, and user-fee funded programs. With regard to user-fee funding providing a basis for thousands of FDA employees to be excepted from the shutdown/furlough, there are two caveats:
    • Most product review programs are a mix of taxpayer and user fee funding, so will be staffed but not fully staffed; and
    • For those focused on food and drugs, analysis is skewed by the fact that nearly 1,000 excepted slots are at the Tobacco Center (more on Tobacco Center funding here).

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