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Advocacy at a Glance

September 6, 2019

Congress Returns September 9/10 to Hectic Fall, Including Funding Bills. The Hill newspaper’s headline characterized the situation well: “Congress is set for a chaotic fall sprint.” For appropriations, there are likely to be two deadlines and one large threat. The first deadline is October 1, the first day of the 2020 fiscal year. To continue in operations after that date, government agencies must have discretionary funds supplied through an appropriations bill or by a continuing resolution.

If an agency has funding from neither source, a complete or partial government shutdown would become a reality. Avoiding the threat of a shutdown is likely to create a second deadline: the expiration date for the Continuing Resolution. In fact, there may be several CRs — short term to continue negotiating over the first week or two of October and/or a longer one that is likely to extend to somewhere between November 15 and December 15. The cycle of appropriations, CRs, and shutdown threats recurs at each CR deadline.

What Needs to Go Right on Spending Bills and How Is FDA Likely to Be Affected. This week’s Analysis and Commentary looks at the narrow path to FDA funding prior to the end of the fiscal year and the consequences of being funded under a Continuing Resolution. It is a complement to the last Analysis and Commentary (on August 23), which explored the question, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Senate Schedules Rapid Pace for Mark-up of Appropriations Bills. The House has passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills; the Senate none. This should be remedied quickly, with the first funding bills expected to be marked up in Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, September 10, and then in full committee on Thursday, September 12. We know for sure that Defense and L-HHS are on this schedule. There is talk that Energy and Water and State/Foreign Operations may be added, either at subcommittee on Tuesday or at the full committee mark-up on Thursday. Unresolved is whether that minibus would be brought to the Senate floor for a vote or become the Senate position in immediate negotiations with the House.

The latter would significantly increase the likelihood that the Defense/L-HHS minibus could become law by October 1. Beyond that, the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up four more appropriations bills the week of September 16 and then the last four the week of September 23. It is being reported that Homeland Security will be in the last group.

House to Consider Continuing Resolution in Case Some Agencies Are Unfunded on October 1. October 1 will come quickly and there is a high probability that most federal departments and agencies will not be covered by an enacted appropriations bill. In preparation, House Democratic leadership is looking to pass a FY 20 CR during the week of September 16 that would extend FY 19 funding levels for any agencies not otherwise funded. The CR will probably extend until November 22, just before Thanksgiving recess, or December 6. While passing the CR early may seem premature, its intent is to place blame on the President or the Republican-controlled Senate if any government agencies are shut down on October 1 for lack of funds.

Upcoming FDA Forums to Highlight Innovation. One of the best opportunities to see how FDA views its own contributions to regulatory science and innovation is the FDA Science Forum, held every 2 years. This year is it will be on September 11 and 12 (agenda) and will cover topics such as precision health, advanced technology, predictive tools, and digital health and artificial intelligence. On September 27, FDA will be holding a hearing on modernizing standards of identify for foods. Information is here. Finally, on October 21, the FDA will hold a hearing on its approach to a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety.” The program is described here, although the meeting agenda has not yet been released.

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