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FY 20 Appropriations: More Qs; More As

November 15, 2019

Q: With the FY 20 Ag/FDA funding bill having passed both the House and Senate, why have those negotiations been stalled by the lack of 302(b) subcommittee spending allocations?

A: The first major hurdle to FY 20 funding was the lack of spending ceilings for defense and non-defense funding. That was resolved this summer with the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). While it initially appeared that would unlock the process, it became apparent that there was a limit to progress until the House and Senate could agree upon 302(b) subcommittee spending allocations. There were several areas of disagreement (explained here). Notably, the House and Senate had different views on the percentage increase over FY 19 that would be reflected in the L-HHS and Homeland Security funding.

So, despite funding bills passed by both House and Senate, negotiations on Ag/FDA funding cannot take place until conferees know the total amount of dollars that would be available for them to spend. That number could not be determined until all subcommittee allocations had been agreed upon.

Q: After the first week of public impeachment hearings, is there still a risk that the process may create either a political or timing issue that might interfere with completion of FY 20 government funding?

A: News reports have suggested that the House impeachment proceedings and a possible Senate trial might interfere with completion of FY 20 appropriations. Thus far, both House and Senate leadership view appropriations and impeachment as separate issues that should be traveling on their own schedules. We expect that commitment to hold, but it is hard to guarantee. It is possible impeachment and appropriations deals could be aligned in mid-December, but that is based on speculative assumptions about the timing of each and the ability of leadership to keep them separate. Further, whatever funding bills move forward will require White House approval, and it is unclear whether they would want to deal with appropriations while impeachment is pending or whether they would separately insist that border wall funding bills, the President’s priority, reach him before the others.

Q: In an earlier Analysis and Commentary (here), did you really say that the Pentagon funding was critical to whether an FDA funding increase occurs in FY 20?

A: Yes, I really did. While a breakthrough on negotiations now seems possible, Congress’ level of frustration in resolving FY 20 appropriations might otherwise reach a point where a full-year Continuing Resolution looks very attractive. Under that scenario, FDA would receive no increase in funding for FY 19 (despite an increase being in both the House and Senate bills). Further, a CR comes with restrictions on initiation of new programs. My view was that Congress was compelled to keep working on appropriations bills because a full-year CR would deprive defense programs of about $22 billion in increased funding available under this past summer’s budget deal. Under this reasoning, FDA will get its money only if DOD gets theirs.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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