Skip to content

Advocacy at a Glance

March 20, 2020

Topline: The Alliance successfully completed its first virtual Hill Day. This year, Hill staff were more aware of FDA’s importance, largely because of its role in combating the pandemic. The Alliance has an upcoming meeting with FDA’s Frank Yiannas. Testimony to appropriations committees is due soon.

Alliance Completes Hill Day with Conference Calls and Much Enthusiasm on Both Sides. For Alliance members and Hill staff alike, it was a new experience — Hill Day by phone. It worked remarkably well. More than 40 Alliance members were organized into seven teams (5 House, 2 Senate) and completed more than 50 meetings. Most of our meetings with Ag/FDA subcommittee members were completed in February, so Hill Day concentrated on remaining appropriations subcommittee and committee members plus a broad sampling from the authorizing committees. A large number of the Congressional staff were working from home, as were most of our Alliance members. Everybody appreciated the opportunity to exchange information, while practicing social distancing.

This year’s Hill Day was notable because FDA was already on the minds of Hill staff. They understood that NIH, CDC, and other government agencies have important roles to play. We didn’t need to tell them that COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines are reviewed by FDA and that it is important to know more than safety and efficacy. Or as Commissioner Hahn has observed: the FDA has to assure that the “right drug” goes to the “right patient” at the “right dosage” and at the “right time.” Next week’s Friday Update will give a fuller description of Hill Day.

Alliance to Meet (Virtually) with FDA Food Safety Leader, Frank Yiannas. On April 1, the Alliance will be holding a teleconference meeting with Frank Yiannas, MPH, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. The meeting, which runs from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., will provide the opportunity for him to discuss budgetary and resource needs for FDA’s food safety programs. This meeting is open to Alliance members and media. Please e-mail Reed to attend. If you would like to participate, but are not yet an Alliance member, please contact Steven.

Upcoming Deadlines for Congressional Testimony. The House Ag/FDA Appropriations Subcommittee will accept public testimony until COB on Tuesday, March 31. Details on submitting testimony are here. The Senate Ag/FDA Appropriations Subcommittee will accept public testimony until COB on Monday, April 6. Details on submitting testimony are here. In both House and Senate, subcommittee members and staff notice how many organizations choose to testify on specific funding requests, so please make a difference for FDA by testifying.

Alliance members interested in submitting testimony should contact Roger or Liz. We can provide advice on the process and help with Alliance materials that will support your efforts. The key document is the Alliance’s FY 21 “ask,” which is contained in this week’s Analysis and Commentary and is also available online here.

Congress Focused on Coronavirus Response; FY 21 Appropriations Plans Unclear. Based on discussions with staff this week, the presumption is that the Appropriations Committees will start the FY 21 funding process after they complete action on the FY 20 supplemental funding to combat the coronavirus pandemic and support the economy. The reality is harder to predict. Previously, the House announced subcommittee and full committee mark-ups in late April and May, although those are no longer on the calendar. The goal was to complete House floor action on all appropriations bills by the end of June. We have expected the Senate to trail, with subcommittee and full committee mark-ups in May and June, with the first appropriations bills reaching the Senate floor near the end of June and into July. The Senate never announced any dates (other than public testimony), so at this point there is nothing for them to revise or withdraw.

Congress is certainly committed to passing FY 21 appropriations bills, but faces a strong headwind with the pandemic, the economy, a Presidential election year, and partisan disputes that are unresolved (e.g., border wall funding). It is a strong possibility that there will be a Continuing Resolution from October 1 to about November 20, 2020. In the interim, 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.

Comments are closed.