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Members’ Questions Are Still Flowing In

February 1, 2019

Q: Apart from the border wall negotiations, what other steps is Congress taking to avoid or reduce the impact of the next shutdown?

A: Almost universally, Members of Congress did not want the shutdown to occur. There was even a deal, ready to go, that would have extended the CR into the new year in order to avoid the shutdown on December 22. By the time the new Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2019, the shutdown had become a source of embarrassment for most Members. The New York Times article on the topic, here, even bore the headline: “With Pain Still Fresh, Lawmakers Make Push to Outlaw Shutdowns.” The text that the House-Senate conferees are negotiating now also reflects the mood. One of its provisions would permanently end government employee furloughs and agency shutdowns.

Q: What could help FDA to better weather the next shutdown?

A: FDA, legislators, and stakeholders are likely to grapple with this question over the next few months. Thus far, there just hasn’t been enough time to have perspective on what’s needed. There is, also, a chance that Congress will enact legislation to permanently end government furloughs (see the prior question). That would reduce the need to look for FDA-specific changes. Even so, it seems likely that FDA’s shutdown experience will be examined to see how the agency could do better in other situations where only part of the staff  is available.

Q: I see that there are lobbying meetings on the Hill on February 13 and the Alliance’s big lobby day is on March 19. I’d like to participate, but don’t know what I should be saying to help the FDA receive better funding.

A: The Alliance schedules prep calls with participants before Hill meetings, so that everyone can hear the goals for the day and the message we need to deliver. More general, but always quite effective, is to be able to tell a Member of Congress or their staff: “My organization supports a well-funded FDA because ….” We can help you with that, as well.

Important to repeat from last week:

Q: Once we are past the shutdown and the FY 19 cycle, what are the prospects for a smooth FY 20?

A: Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 to constrain discretionary federal spending over the following decade. Later negotiations have altered or bypassed, caps in a number of years. Notably, FY 18 and FY 19 had higher ceiling caps than in law. FY 20 and FY 21 are not covered by any such arrangement. Based on FY 19 spending levels, meeting the FY 20 caps would require Congress to spend $71 billion less on defense programs and $54 billion less on non-defense programs. So, there is every reason to the think the FY 20 process for raising these budget caps will be contentious. If so, appropriators may not be able to move bills because they won’t know how much money is available to spend.​

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