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Timing, Knowns, and Unknowns: FDA’s FY 19 Appropriation

September 7, 2018

This is the time of year when Alliance members keep asking me: what do you think will happen? Will Ag/FDA appropriations become law at the beginning of the new fiscal year or wait until the post-election session (or longer)?

I always remind them that that neither Speaker Ryan nor Majority Leader McConnell know what will happen. There isn’t a secret plan to close out the year that only a few people are privy to. There are only best guesses and the need for House and Senate leadership to be flexible as events unfold.

However, I can provide a good sense of the possibilities.

The most unpredictable variable is: what will the President do? As of Thursday night, he seemed inclined to let the fight over border wall funding wait for the post-election session. But that doesn’t resolve other uncertainties: would he prefer a shut-down to signing a Continuing Resolution? Or prefer a CR to signing appropriations bills? Might he take the minibus appropriations bills and decide some should be signed and others blocked (either by veto or by getting House Republicans to block it).

Meantime, the Congress is conferencing nine of the 12 subcommittee bills (in three minibuses) with the hope that all will become law and none will need to be covered by a CR beyond possibly the first few days of October. Only Homeland Security, State Foreign-Operations, and Commerce-Justice-Science are certain to be on CRs that will extend past the election.

Of the nine bills contained in three minibuses, there is no certainty of House-Senate agreements on any of them. Rather, the only commitment is that conferees will meet and try to hammer out differences. Because the House bills have a large number of policy riders and programs cutbacks, it is not a given that conference reports will emerge. So, some of the minibuses might make it to the President by October 1 (or the first few days of October), but it might not be all of them.

Further, leadership has to figure out which bill will carry a CR that funds the rest of government until a specific date in late November or December. If Congress attaches the CR to either DOD or, more likely DOD/Labor-HHS program funding, it is likely the President would sign this bill to avoid criticisms that he is anti-military/anti-troops. The worst case would be that Congress passes the CR on DOD/L-HHS and then decides that all of the other appropriations bills can wait for the post-election session.

While everything may turn out fine, these are plausible scenarios in which Congress does not pass Ag/FDA funding by October 1 or the first few days of October. If the FDA is funded by CR, rather than appropriations, it means that FDA will largely have to spend its dollars on activities that were part of the FY 18 FDA budget/workplan. And any planned increase in FY 19 funding would be deferred until an Ag/FDA appropriations bill becomes law. This would constrain FDA’s ability to start and continue new facets of the programs for which money is requested in the President’s FY 19 budget request.

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

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