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Advocacy at a Glance

October 5, 2019

FY 20 Starts Peacefully; No Shutdown, But Restrictions Under a CR. As expected, Congress left for recess at the end of last week and will return on October 15. The President signed the Continuing Resolution (through November 21.) This removes the immediate threat of a shutdown, but also provides no short-term relief from the burdens of operating under a CR.

Under the CR, FDA will 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.

Finalizing FY 20 Appropriations: Multiple Points of Dispute. 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. DOD (and Military Construction/VA) are 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 ten non-defense funding bills, notably Homeland Security (likely the last bill and the one that would ordinarily include border wall funding.

There is interest in Congress to move first on the six to eight other, relatively unencumbered bills, including the Ag/FDA funding bill. This was explored in last week’s Analysis and Commentary. This week, our Analysis and Commentary looks at the opposite (unfortunate) possibility: a year-long CR. We also look at how FDA is likely to fare if the Ag/FDA appropriations bill becomes law.

President Tells Shelby: Keep Working on Appropriations. Before leaving town, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Richard Shelby, met with the President to have what Politico described as “candid” discussion about the “realities” of the appropriations process and how to avoid additional continuing resolutions over the next year. Defense News reported afterward that the President told Shelby to keep on moving. Shelby interpreted this as: “regular order, to debate our bills, pass our bills, get to conference and go from there.”

FDA Rolls Out “Food Safety Dashboard.” In a sign of progress (but also a sign of how long it takes to implement a complex, transformative law,) FDA has released its food safety dashboard to track metrics that relate to FSMA and its seven foundational rules. The announcement is here.

No Friday Update on October 11. While Congress is on recess (and appropriations news minimal,) Friday Update is going to take next week off. We will return with our next edition on October 18.

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