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Education and Advocacy for FDA Is a Year-Round Priority

July 12, 2019

There has been much angst about the prospects for a FY 20 budget deal. That is understandable given the possible outcomes. Without a budget deal, there is the possibility of a $130+ billion cut from current discretionary funding or another government shutdown. If the debt ceiling is not resolved, there is also the possibility of a government default. In that case, government activity would continue sporadically (based on available funds and government priorities), but much of government would grind to a halt over a period of weeks. You know things are bad when a series of short-term Continuing Resolutions (CR) and a short debt-ceiling extension might become desirable options.

We are, indeed, in a dire situation, but it does not justify headlines like: “Chances of a Government Shutdown are Skyrocketing.” No one is helped by such inflammatory rhetoric.

Rather, Congress understands what is needed. Apparently, according to reports, the White House does too; although it has also asked federal agencies to update their shutdown plans by early August. Beyond the obligatory political sniping, the threshold problems can be surmounted (change BCA levels, allow defense and non-defense spending to increase, two-year deal on budget and debt ceiling). Once that’s done, I believe the difference between House and Senate numbers will be well within the range of differences that appropriations committees have successfully negotiated in the past.

The need to amend the BCA (or suspend its implementation) for FY 20 and FY 21 is certainly a complication, but this is not the first year in which the BCA spending ceilings were unrealistically low and a budget deal was needed. We keep hearing that “Congress is running out of time.”

Generally, that is true: there are a dwindling number of legislative days before the end of the fiscal year. To me, that is also a surmountable problem. Once the threshold issues are resolved, staff should be able to whittle done the number of disagreements, so that there are only a few that only Members can resolve. There is time before October 1 to address those.

In many past columns, we have distinguished between macro and micro budgetary issues. The threshold items stalling current negotiations are all macro problems, involving the broad sweep of government spending. Whatever House and Senate (and White House) leadership work out, it will not be based on the needs and opportunities at FDA.

Nonetheless, micro budgetary issues — how does Congress perceive FDA’s mission and the value of increased funding — are still very much in play. The House has already made its evaluation and would give FDA a $185 million increase (about 6%) for FY 20. The Senate numbers for FDA are unknown until they take up Ag/FDA appropriations. We need Congress to resolve the macro issues and start moving on micro funding issues, such as our own. A final thought: how Congress perceives FDA, its mission and its funding needs is not based on a single document (the President’s budget request, the Alliance “ask”) or a single day (the Commissioner’s appropriations testimony; the Alliance’s big Hill Lobby Day). Rather, the agency’s fate — reflecting its successes and needs — is being evaluated and calculated by Congress every day. Accordingly, the Alliance’s responsibility to educate and advocate for FDA is needed year-round.

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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