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Advocacy at a Glance

June 5, 2020

Top-Line: Both House and Senate Appropriations Committees have laid out schedules for when they will consider funding bills. The Senate’s focus is late June and July; the House’s focus is to move bills from subcommittee to floor passage in July. These plans are subject to a number of situations that might force delays. This week’s Analysis and Commentary reviews Commissioner Hahn’s remarks to Alliance members this week.

Commissioner Hahn’s Address to the Alliance Gains Wide Attention. On Tuesday of this week (June 2), Dr. Hahn spoke to Alliance members and the media, his first public address to the stakeholder community. On this webinar, he provided an overview of the FDA’s coronavirus activities, emphasized the need to make decisions based on scientific evidence, and praised the tireless efforts of FDA staff to address COVID-19 challenges, as well as maintaining a high level of completion for the rest of its work. A shorter, pre-recorded version of his remarks and a transcript are here. His remarks are also discussed in this week’s Analysis and Commentary. The Alliance anticipates announcing some additional webinars in the near future.

House Appropriations to Move FY 21 Funding Bills in July. The House Appropriations Committee has announced its timing, creating a jam-packed July in the process. As announced by Appropriations Chair Lowey, subcommittee and full committee mark-ups are planned for the weeks beginning July 6 and 13. Floor action would then occur the weeks of July 20 and 27. That would put the House roughly on its original schedule, which would be an accomplishment in the context of this year’s events. Realistically, there are likely to be further delays, at least for some of the more difficult bills. Previously the Committee had indicated funding bills would not advance without Senate passage of the next coronavirus legislation.

Senate Appropriations May Forge Ahead of the House.  The Senate intends to mark up several FY 21 appropriations bills toward the end of June, with the rest to be addressed after the Fourth of July.  If this proves the case, then the Senate will be a week or two ahead of the House. It is reported that the Senate won’t take action on the next coronavirus relief bill until mid-summer. That makes it more likely that the Senate can act on appropriations bills, starting later this month.

House and Senate Appropriations Schedules: Probably Not Reliable.  As described in the Analysis and Commentary from 2 weeks ago (here), the appropriations process has always had a hurry up, then slow down pattern, at least over the last decade. With so many moving parts at the moment — the pandemic, the economy, civil unrest — the probability of further delays in either House or Senate schedules is high.

Even within the appropriations process, there are additional issues that make the path rocky. The last few weeks, it was about whether the limited spending allowed under the budget caps could be eased by taking increased VA spending off-budget. The latest emerging issue is whether Congress might be regaining its concern over federal spending and budget deficits. That was reflected in a bipartisan letter signed by 60 members of the House asking for measures to be taken to address “the nation’s mounting red ink” (here and here).

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