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FDA’s “Appropriation Fate” Is Evaluated on a Daily Basis

December 16, 2019

For a number of years, the Alliance has made a distinction between macro- and micro-budgetary issues. The macro-issues involve the broad sweep of government, such as total discretionary spending, 302(b) subcommittee allocations, the relative balance between defense and non-defense spending, and, the last two years, border wall funding. We can hope that this week’s budget agreement puts all the macro-budgetary issues behind us, at least for FY 20.

We have a stake in the outcome of the macro-budget (e.g., the 302(b) allocation for the Ag/FDA appropriations subcommittee) but no ability to affect its resolution. Macro-budgetary decisions are not (ever) based on the needs and opportunities at FDA.

Our primary attention — and advocacy — are centered around micro-budgetary issues (i.e., the funding of specific departments and agencies). The Alliance is very focused on how Congress perceives FDA’s mission and whether they see the value of increased funding for that mission.

What should we expect to see when the FY 20 appropriations for FDA are released next week as part of the conference agreement? We know that the House proposed a $184 million increase (about 6%) for FDA for FY 20. The comparable Senate number is a proposed increase of $80 million (not quite 3%). In general, we expect some split of the difference, neither higher than the House nor lower than the Senate. In some years, we have gotten the higher number in conference and in some other years we have had a split that was much closer to the higher number.

This year, in contrast, we are most likely get an increase that is closer to the lower Senate level. If so, that would not be a commentary on FDA. Rather,  the aggregate of all House non-defense spending bills is $15 billion higher than the Senate numbers that were based on the budget deal (explained further in the third Q&A here). Any given program line might end up with a conference number set at a higher House position (our hope for FDA). Overall, however, House numbers will mostly come down for most programs — by a lot — because the House pot of money allocated for non-defense programs is so much higher than the budget deal allows.

Once FY 20 is behind us, we can accelerate preparation for the next cycle, which starts with the State of the Union in late January and the release of the President’s FY 21 budget request in early February.

A final thought: how Congress perceives FDA, its mission, and its funding needs is not based on a single document (the President’s budget request, the Alliance “ask”) or a single day (the Commissioner’s appropriations testimony; the Alliance’s big Hill Lobby Day). Rather, the agency’s fate — reflecting its successes and needs — is being evaluated and calculated by Congress every day. Accordingly, the Alliance’s responsibility to educate and advocate for FDA is a year-round activity.

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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