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Advocacy at a Glance

September 30, 2019

President to Sign CR; Government Will Stay Open to November 21.  By an 81-16 vote, the Senate adopted the House-passed FY 20 Continuing Resolution. The President is expected to sign the CR sometime before the new fiscal year starts on October 1, next Tuesday. The CR expires on Thursday, November 21, the end of the last week before Congress leaves for Thanksgiving recess. As far as we can tell, nobody in Congress is happy with the situation. Nonetheless, everyone seems relieved to start the fiscal year without disruption. Congress will be in recess for the next two weeks, returning on October 15. They will have six work-weeks to finish appropriations. If not, they will have to extend the Continuing Resolution beyond November 21.

FDA Funding Under a CR: Difficult But Far Better Than a Showdown. FDA will begin the fiscal year with funding under a Continuing Resolution. The consequences of a CR are severe, even though they may be temporary. In any case, having recently experienced the impact of a shutdown, a CR is clearly better for the agency than the alternative. The FDA will need to carry out its programs using the FY 19 (prior year) funding levels, without the increased monies proposed for FY 20 by the House and Senate. Further, FDA will be limited in its ability to start new initiatives for as long as it is on CR funding. We have been told there is some leeway if the agency can show that the new initiative is actually an extension of efforts that occurred during FY 19. Last (but hardly least), CRs create uncertainty, which makes program and personnel planning difficult.

Multiple Sticking Points Will Complicate Congressional Negotiations on FY 20 Funding.  When Congress returns in mid-October, it faces a series of interlocking problems that are stalling funding bills and for which there is no obvious resolution. Politically, DOD and L-HHS are best going first.

However, DOD (and Military Construction/VA) is tied up in Democrats’ unwillingness to re-appropriate monies that President Trump transferred to building the border wall. L-HHS (one-third of all non-defense discretionary funding) can’t move until there is an agreement that sets funding at a level that neither enriches nor shortchanges the remaining 10 non-defense funding bills, notably Homeland Security (likely the last bill).

There has been some speculation about whether appropriators might be willing to let the six to eight other, relatively unencumbered bills to move first. This would (presumably) include the Ag/FDA funding bill. This is explored in this week’s Analysis and Commentary.

FDA’s FY 20 Funding: House and Senate Bills Compared. Linked here is a chart comparing FY 19 FDA appropriations with the House-passed FY 20 funding levels and the Senate Committee-passed FY 20 funding levels. The House has claimed that its bill is $184 million more than FY 19 and the Senate has stated its bill is $80 million more than FY 19. Breaking this apart, the House provides $20 million more for food than the Senate, $35 million more for CDER, $10 million more for CBER, $2 million more for CVM, $26 million more for CDRH, $10 million more for Office of the Commissioner, and $3 million more for rent items. The National Center for Toxicological Research is level-funded in both bills.  (Note: Because of rounding in the House- and Senate-claimed amounts and rounding in the attached table, the House is $106 million more than the Senate, rather than the $104 million suggested by top-line numbers.)

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