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FY 20: The “Ask”; the Possible; and the Realities

April 12, 2019

Q:  We know that the late arrival of the President’s budget made it difficult to put together the Alliance’s FY 20 “ask.” Where did the Alliance finally come out?

A: The top-line; the Alliance is requesting $418 million in additional FDA programming for FY 20. Of that amount: $316 million is for medical products activities (the same amount as the President’s request) and $102 million is for food safety activities ($60 million above the President’s request). Our “ask” is built around a total number of dollars FDA needs and some general priorities for justifying that amount. We encourage Alliance members to support the Alliance “ask” and the general priorities we lay out. For Alliance members who are advocates for funding specific programs and initiatives within FDA, please utilize the Alliance position and supplement it with your own advocacy positions. The text of the Alliance “ask” is here. It is also described in slightly greater detail in the testimony that the Alliance submitted to the House and Senate Ag/FDA Appropriations Subcommittee. House testimony is here and Senate testimony is here.

Q:  Since January, every Alliance Q&A on the FY 20 appropriations process has said how difficult it is going to be. Are things getting any better?

A:  Maybe. One of the purposes of having Congress pass a joint budget resolution is that it provides top-line spending numbers (section 302(a)). Working within that amount, the appropriations committees then allocate a certain amount to each subcommittee (the often-cited 302(b) numbers). Sometimes House and Senate allocate different amounts to subcommittees, which can create a stumbling block to reaching agreement on specific appropriations bills. That pales in comparison to times when — in the absence of a budget resolution — the House and Senate adopt different 302(a) spending ceilings.

That’s where the FY 20 process (the current one) was heading and still may go. It is a very hopeful sign that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell are talking about a budget deal that might fix several impediments to a smooth FY 20 appropriations process. Presumably, they are looking for an agreement that would prevent the massive spending cuts that would be required by the spending limits in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Also, it has been reported that House Appropriation Chair Nita Lowey has said that her committee staff are already working on setting 302(b)’s numbers so that subcommittees in the House can at least can get started.

Beyond that, we would hope they would agree on a common 302(a) spending number, so both House and Senate start allocating dollars to subcommittees using the same bottom line. A deal might also resolve how much defense spending will be placed under the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is designed to support the cost of military operations, i.e. wars, and does not count against spending ceilings. For purposes of agencies like FDA — that are part of the non-defense discretionary portion of the budget — there is a risk that routine DOD expenditures will get passed through the OCO and weaken efforts to keep non-defense growing by the same amount as defense.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a deal will be reached. Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on how to resolve their differences. But there will also be great pressure to find common ground and avoid further government disruption.

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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