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Advocacy at a Glance

September 13, 2019

Senate Appropriations to Mark-Up Ag/FDA Bill on Tuesday, September 17.  The subcommittee mark-up for Ag/FDA funding is now slated for 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 17. Although not yet scheduled, it is assumed that the full committee will include the bill at mark-up on September 19.  If so, there is a strong possibility that Ag/FDA will be bundled into a minibus with the other three bills likely to emerge from subcommittee next Tuesday: Military Construction/VA, Financial Services, and the Transportation/HUD bill

The Alliance’s Recess Projections Borne Out by Initial Congressional Actions on Funding Bills.  Our last two columns, “What Can Go Wrong?” (August 23, here) and “What Needs to Go Right?” (September 6, here), assessed the complicated political and policy situation as Congress moves to complete FY 20 appropriations bills. This week’s Analysis and Commentary updates our analyses based on Congress’ first week back.

Congress Focused on Continuing Resolution (CR) While Still Trying to Move Funding Bills Forward. With a dwindling number of days before the end of the fiscal year, the House plans to move forward next week on a Continuing Resolution that would continue to fund the government, probably through Thursday, November 21 (another date could still be chosen). House leadership has declared an intent to produce a “clean CR,” which, in this case, means a bill that (1) does the minimum needed to keep the government funded, (2) is politically saleable to the Senate and the President, and (3) avoids a government shutdown on October 1. At week’s end, the House was still working on final details in advance of next week’s vote.

Senate Sets Ambitious September Schedule with Mixed Results Thus Far. The Senate Appropriations Committees plan was to mark-up four funding bills on October 12, four more on October 19, and the final four on October 26.

For a number of strategic and political reasons, the DOD and L-HHS bills were intended to be in the first wave and became the anchor of a minibus that could possibly be on the President’s desk by September 31. While still not impossible, the goal to enact the first minibus this fiscal year was slowed, if not derailed, when the Committee postponed the L-HHS mark-up. Allegedly, the unresolved issues involved disagreements on so-called “poison pill” riders, but Minority Leader Schumer focused his explanation on the need to be sure that L-HHS (the first non-defense bill being considered) was not shorted by billions of dollars that would be used to fund substantial increases at Homeland Security (likely one of the last non-defense bills to be considered).

The War of the 302(b) Allocations: Senate-Adopted Numbers Leave House and Senate Far Apart.  The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) set the FY 20 non-defense funding, in the aggregate, at about 4% above FY 19 levels. The Senate succeeded in getting subcommittee 302(b) allocations approved by assuring HHS’s increase was comparable, on a percentage basis, to the overall increase. Still unresolved is how the House will adjust its 302(b) allocations, given that its bills aggregate to $15 billion more in non-defense spending than the BBA levels. So, for example, the House allocation for Agriculture/FDA is about $1.2 billion more than the Senate and for Labor/HHS it is about $4 billion more. The House will have to accept downward adjustments, but not necessarily aligned with the Senate 302(b) levels.

FDA Forges Ahead with State Cooperative Agreement on Produce Safety. The Produce Safety Rule, one of the major planks of the Food Safety Modernization Act, continues to be implemented nationwide. Last week, FDA signed a 5-year cooperative agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to work together on implementation and educational activities. FDA Fact Sheet — Association Produce Cooperative Agreement Program

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