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“Cures,” Coronavirus, NDD, and Other Issues for FY 21

March 13, 2020

Q: The Alliance is asking for $3.278 billion for discretionary funding for the FDA, plus $70 million in 21st Century Cures funding. Why isn’t it correct to add the two and ask for $3.348 billion including $70 million for Cures?

A: The language we use “$3.278 billion for FDA discretionary S&E plus $70 million for Cures” is deliberate and accurate. This conforms to the way the House and Senate Ag/FDA Appropriations Subcommittees construct their bills, with the Cures monies in a separate section and not added into the FDA’s BA appropriations tables. We have this confusion every year because the Administration structures its request in a way that combines these monies. We have to prepare for the Congressional appropriations subcommittees, which do not.

Q: Has the coronavirus pandemic altered the Congressional schedule for moving forward on FY 21 appropriations?

A: It is too early to know. Congress is certainly committed to passing FY 21 appropriations bills. However, given the combination of an election year, the focus on the pandemic, and large partisan divides (for example, on the border wall), it is a strong possibility that there will be a Continuing Resolution from October 1 to about November 20, 2020. It remains to be seen whether there can be a virtual appropriations process if the appropriations committees can’t have hearings, mark-ups, and extended floor time because of the pandemic.

Q: Why are available funds for non-defense discretionary funding (NDD) so scarce for the FY 21 funding cycle?

A: Under the budget deal cut in the summer of 2019, NDD funding in FY 21 can only grow by about $5 billion above the FY 20 enacted level. The President’s funding priorities for FY 21 — VA, Homeland Security, and NASA — are slated for increases that would more than consume that $5 billion. To make the situation for NDD funding more dire, the President’s NDD budget request is $16 billion below FY 20 funding. As a result, most federal NDD programs are proposed to be cut and many of them by substantial amounts.

Q: What are the obstacles to FDA receiving a substantial increase for FY 21?

A: As noted in the answer immediately above, the most significant challenge to FDA is that the NDD ceiling increases only $5 billion this year and there are a number of must-fund program expansions (notably veteran’s programs) that will require quite a bit more than that amount. As a result, in relative terms: FDA did well in the President’s request because it received a proposed increase. In absolute terms, FDA needs a larger increase than proposed because of new responsibilities, new science, and new technology. Members of Congress and staff on the appropriations committees have been incredibly supportive of FDA and we believe they will appreciate the case for more resources for the agency. Whether they will be able to find money for FDA under such tight constraints is uncertain. It is the Alliance’s job to provide the Congress with reasons to support a further large increase for the agency and make certain that FDA does not suffer cuts or a flat funding situation.

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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