Skip to content

Aiming High AND Moving Quickly

June 29, 2018

We have reason for optimism about FY 19 funding for FDA. The House committee proposed an increase of $308 million in budget authority (BA) spending. The Senate committee proposed an increase of $159 million in BA spending. We are working hard — directly and through our current sign-on letter — to eventually get a House-Senate agreement under which FDA receives the highest funding levels from both bills. Regardless, after several years of smaller increases, it would seem like FDA can’t lose — it’s a matter of a good win for the agency versus a big win … with something in between the most likely outcome.

But that conclusion is subject to the same caution we explored last week: happy endings are not guaranteed.

First, there is a general rule that conferees are supposed to go no higher or lower than the House and Senate numbers. The reality might be described as: yes, that’s so, but there are lots of exceptions. The fixed range is not guaranteed.

In fact, our “ask” — the higher number for all the provisions in either bill — would require funding levels higher than the House position. It’s still a legitimate “ask”, because such a result can happen. It would also allow the agency to fully undertake a number of new and important initiatives. Conversely, nothing actually restrains the conferees from going lower than the Senate numbers. There is no reason to think the intention would be to hurt the FDA, rather the House and Senate appropriations conferences (not just for Ag/FDA) will be difficult exercises in competing priorities for scarce dollars.

We hope FDA will not be in the situation of getting less, but in every bill there will be some programs that are reduced below the lesser of the House and Senate positions. We don’t want to be one of those.

Second, “regular order” is starting to look possible, but we still need Congress to pass and the President to sign bills and mini-buses that cover all 12 subcommittee bills. If the process breaks down before Ag/FDA appropriations becomes law, then on October 1 the FDA will be funded through a continuing resolution. The name reflects its limitation: funding is only available to continue activities that received budgeted dollars in the prior fiscal year.

Continuing resolutions are bad for agencies because it makes long-term planning, hiring, and program implementation more difficult and precludes most new initiatives. This is not a big deal if an agency is getting only a small increase. However, it is a large problem for agencies, such as FDA may be in FY 19, that may receive substantial increases. At least to begin the fiscal year, FDA would not have any of the new dollars to spend on new initiatives..

So, not only is the Alliance an advocate for higher funding levels from the House and Senate bills, but we also need to be advocates for Congress to move the appropriations process along expeditiously. For FDA’s benefit, we need Congress to aim high on agency funding and move quickly to lock in that result.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

Comments are closed.