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Future Changes in Congressional Committees and the FDA

October 16, 2020

The new Congress will bring changes to the appropriations and authorizing committees that are responsible for FDA. Here is a rundown:

In the House

With the retirement of current Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), three members of the Committee have already launched their campaigns to become the new chair. The most senior member of the committee, Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), was formerly on the Ag/FDA subcommittee and for several years was the Ranking Member of the subcommittee. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) continues to serve on the Ag/FDA subcommittee and was previously Chair of the subcommittee. The third candidate, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) has not served on the Ag/FDA Subcommittee. Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) is expected to continue to serve as Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee.

On the Ag/FDA subcommittee, we expect that the chair, Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA) will continue. Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) will probably continue, as well. However, there is some uncertainty because three other subcommittee ranking members have reached the House GOP six-year leadership limit as Chair or Ranking Member of subcommittees. This could set off a shuffling among who is ranking on which subcommittee.

There will be at least six vacancies (three Democrat, three Republican)​ on the full Appropriations Committee.  Subcommittee selection is not expected to occur until January, so more subcommittee shifting could happen, as well.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for FDA’s authorizing legislation, should be stable on the Democratic side. Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA) are likely to continue. On the Republican side, Greg Walden (R-OR), the full committee Ranking Member, is retiring and some of the likely replacements are either retiring or term-limited. Three members have announced their candidacy for the ranking position: Michael Burgess of Texas, Bob Latta of Ohio, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Representative Burgess will probably continue as Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee if he does not become chair of the full committee.

There will be at least 10 vacancies (four Democrat, six Republican) on the full Energy and Commerce Committee. There will be at least six vacancies (three Democrat, three Republican) on the Health Subcommittee.

In the Senate

In contrast, we do not expect as many changes on Senate committees of significance to the FDA. However, if the Democrats become the Senate majority in the 117th Congress, the chairs and ranking members are expected to switch positions. Committee ratios will also flip, most likely by adding one additional Democratic member and deleting one Republican member.

There are unlikely to be any changes (other than the possible switch in majorities) at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At full committee, Richard Shelby (R-AL) will continue as the senior Republican and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as the senior Democrat. On the Ag/FDA subcommittee, John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are likely to continue to be the leaders.

There will be at least two vacancies (one Democrat, one Republican) on the full Appropriations Committee and at least one vacancy (Democrat) on the Ag/FDA subcommittee. The Senate HELP Committee, FDA’s authorizing committee, will see large changes on the Republican side because of the retirements of four senior members. On the Democratic side, there is a presumption that Patty Murray (D-WA) will be chair or Ranking Member. The Committee has only three subcommittees. FDA, NIH, and most major health legislation are considered so important that they are handled by the full committee. They are not referred to the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security where Bernie Sanders (D-VT) notably will be chair or ranking member.

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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