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Advocacy at a Glance

August 2, 2019

Budget Deal Passes Senate, President Agrees to Sign. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA; a.k.a. “the budget deal”) passed the Senate this week by a vote of 67-28. It will next go to the President for his signature. The budget deal — several difficult months in the making — unblocks the appropriations process in time for some spending bills to become law by October 1. However, it doesn’t guarantee that result. Congress returns from August recess on September 9 and 10 and will only have about 3 weeks before the start of the new fiscal year. Senate markups are expected to start immediately upon return. If past schedules are any indication, subcommittees will mark-up on Tuesdays and those bills will be in full committee on Thursdays. Reportedly, the Senate will start with a minibus package with DOD, HHS, and a third bill, probably Energy and Water.

BBA Non-Defense Cap Allows Growth Over FY 19, But Less Than House FY 20 Numbers. In order to get started on appropriations bills without a budget deal, the House “deemed” a top-line spending number and allocated a portion to each subcommittee. As a negotiating tactic, the House numbers were intentionally high. So, to the surprise of no one, the non-defense spending caps in the BBA are significantly above FY 19 funding levels, but below the House levels. As a result, the Senate bills may be better or worse than the House for specific accounts, but the aggregate in the Senate bill will need to be about $15 billion less for non-defense programs.

Between Now and October 1: A Lot Needs to Happen. This week’s Analysis and Commentary discusses what Congress needs to do so that many/most appropriations bills — especially Ag/FDA — can be completed before October 1.  We are surprisingly optimistic.

Budget Caps Will End After FY 21: What Happens Then? After a decade of dealing with the constraints of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the latest budget deal eliminates budget caps and sequestration, starting with FY 22. When the next Congress meets in January 2021, they may return to the once-successful process of creating an annual Congressional Budget Resolution or may look for overarching budget deals like the current one. Alternatively, House and Senate could work on separate spending bills with different bottom lines and reconcile later in the process.  Roll Call explores the possibilities here.

Dr. Sharpless Sets Out His Priorities, Including Staffing. On July 23, Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless sent FDA employees an e-mail outlining his top priorities (described here by Regulatory Focus). Those are: (1) assuring public health through emerging technologies; (2) investing in FDA’s next generation expert workforce and infrastructure; (3) modernizing frameworks; and (4) promoting and protecting consumer and patient safety. The Alliance is particularly pleased with his focus on investing in expert workforce and infrastructure. FDA can only be as good as the staff who serve.

FDA and USDA Food Leadership Discuss Agency Agendas. FDA Deputy Commissioner Yiannis appeared with his USDA counterpart to discuss food safety priorities at each agency. His comments (covered by Food Safety News) focused on his four most immediate challenges: fresh produce safety, combating Cyclospora, intentional adulteration, and food imports.

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