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Advocacy at Glance

May 22, 2020

Top-Line: FY 21 appropriations in the House and Senate are impeded by a range of roadblocks. These are discussed here, as well as in the Analysis and Commentary section. VA funding, which loomed as an additional impediment, looks to be resolved. Friday Update is off next week and returns on June 5.

Procedural Path Cleared for House Mark-up Appropriations; Impediments Remain. As widely reported, many of the House Appropriations subcommittees have made significant progress on drafting FY 21 funding bills and committee reports. However, with many House Members away from DC, no further action could occur until the House rules were amended to allow virtual hearings and mark-ups during public emergencies.

The rules change was adopted on May 15 and appeared to put the House back on track to mark-up most funding bills in June and to start floor action in July. However, as reported by Roll Call (here):

… remote markups are still a ways off. Guidance from the Rules Committee advised committees that they cannot hold remote markups until they have conducted at least two virtual hearings and a private practice session of a virtual markup.

The House Appropriations Committee has not, at this time, scheduled those preliminary events. For further discussion of impediments to House action on appropriations, see this week’s Analysis and Commentary.

Senate Appropriations Committee Still Talking About Moving Bills. There are mixed messages on next steps in the Senate. Chairman Richard Shelby met this week with President Trump to discuss FY 21 funding issues. Separately, there are reports that the committee is close to providing subcommittees with their 302(b) spending allocations. These are essential to converting staff drafts into final bills. There is talk that the Senate could mark up some funding bills in June and the rest after the Fourth of July recess. However, the Senate has not yet made provisions for virtual mark-ups and it is unclear whether enough Senators would be present for in-person mark-ups. For further discussion of impediments to Senate action on appropriations, see this week’s Analysis and Commentary.

Moving New VA Programs Off-Budget Might Stave Off Cuts to Non-Defense Programs. The budget cap on non-defense spending in FY 21 is only slightly higher than actual FY 20 enacted spending levels. There was never any prospect that more than a handful of non-defense programs were going to receive added funds in FY 21. The problem is far worse because more than $10 billion in VA funding for private medical care for veterans is slated to come on-budget in FY 21. This would eat up all available money for increases and might require more than $7 billion in non-defense program cuts. The most likely outcome, as reported in a number of publications, is that the House and Senate will move the increased VA monies off-budget and therefore not subject to the caps. However, that will still leave little money for increases for non-defense programs.

Update on FDA Activities Regarding Vital Food and Medical Product Imports. This week’s FDA Voices looks at the agency’s efforts to assure imports of essential food and medical products are safe and that unsafe products are excluded from the U.S. (see here).

No Friday Update on May 29; Back on June 5.  While Friday Update will be off next week,  Alliance staff are not. Let us know if you have questions or want to discuss FDA and its funding needs.

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