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Advocacy at a Glance

July 19, 2019

Put the Bubbly Back in the Fridge: No Budget Deal Quite Yet.  Normally, Friday Update is written Thursday night and last minute updates are added in on Friday morning. … READ MORE …

Education and Advocacy for FDA Is a Year-Round Priority

July 12, 2019

There has been much angst about the prospects for a FY 20 budget deal. That is understandable given the possible outcomes. … READ MORE …

Advocacy at a Glance

July 12, 2019

House and Senate Action (or Lack) on FY 20 Appropriations. The House has passed 11 of 13 appropriations bills. Action on the last two — Legislative Branch and Homeland Security (HS) — was expected in July but this now looks unlikely. … READ MORE …

What CBO Had to Say about Our Long-term Fiscal Health

June 29, 2019

This week’s CBO report on the long-term fiscal health of the U.S. government got the attention of a lot of policymakers. … READ MORE …

Advocacy at a Glance

June 29, 2019

House Passes H.R. 3055, Including Ag/FDA Appropriations. For the FDA, the first major step in the appropriations process was completed this week, with House passage of H.R. 3055 (by a vote of 227-194). This is a five-bill minibus that provides about $380 billion in FY 20 spending for Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD.  Under this bill, FDA would receive a $185 million increase for FY 20, taking its total BA funding to $3.26 billion per year.

After the July 4 recess, the House will still need to address Homeland Security (now probably the most difficult bill to craft) and the Legislative Branch (controversy over a possible pay raise for Members of Congress). Once those are completed, the House will have finished all 12 subcommittee bills and will wait for the Senate to catch up. It is unclear whether the Senate will conference bills with the House prior to the adoption of a budget deal.

Senate to Start Appropriations in July; Still Awaits Budget Deal. With no budget deal in sight, the Senate is prepared to “deem” a set of budget numbers and proceed in July to mark-up an FY 20 appropriations bill. This allows the process to move forward and Senators to sort out their priorities, but everyone understands that final adjustments will be needed once there is a budget deal that provides definitive spending amounts and constraints. Senate leadership has said only that they would be starting with lower aggregate numbers than the House.

Budget Deal: No Visible Progress. The absence of a budget deal on defense and non-defense spending ceilings (explained here and here) is holding back the appropriations process, as House and Senate leadership have both affirmed. There were no meetings this week — at least not in public view. The FY 19 Emergency Supplemental that was adopted by both Houses this week may have accounted for that. Most of those individuals who were key to passage of the supplemental are also key to reaching a budget deal.

FDA and the Federal Budget: CBO Describes the Long-Term Challenge. Reporting from DC is largely focused on current news; the event horizon is the 16 months until the next election. Breaking that mold, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) drew a lot attention this week with a report on the long-term prospects for bringing government revenue and spending into alignment. The key finding: based on current law assumptions,

large budget deficits over the next 30 years are projected to drive federal debt held by the public to unprecedented levels — from 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 144 percent by 2049.

This week’s Analysis and Commentary explores how such macro-forecasting has implications for FDA, even though the agency’s BA funding is only about 0.3% of federal discretionary spending.

No Friday Update on July 5. We will return with the next edition on July 12. We wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July.

Theory and Practice: How Appropriations Will Actually Work for FY 20

June 24, 2019

Q: What is “regular order” appropriations and why is it rarely achieved?

A: Under the “good government” version of appropriations — enshrined in law — the House and Senate agree on a budget that contains a ceiling for federal discretionary spending (the 302(a) number) and allocates those monies to conform with spending caps, if any. The appropriations committees then takes the 302(a) number and divides it among the 12 subcommittees (the 302(b) numbers). Appropriators then devote themselves to marking up all of the spending bills, gaining conference agreements on numbers, and sending the bills to the President for signature by September 30 or earlier. This is a straightforward process, dubbed “regular order appropriations.” Congress has always struggled to achieve “regular order” and it last occurred a decade ago. More background is here.

Q. Why is a budget deal needed this year and why is an agreement so hard to reach?

A: The purpose of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) was to slow the growth in federal spending over the subsequent 10-year period. To achieve this, the BCA sets aggregate spending caps on defense and non-defense funding for each year. From the beginning, the spending levels were too low and Congress found it difficult to comply with the very discipline that it had tried to impose on itself. After the painful sequestration (across-the-board cuts) that occurred in FY 13, it became clear that a budget deal would be needed every one or two years to let funding come up to a more realistic level.

The last deal covered FY 18 and FY 19, but left in place the BCA caps for FY 20. Those caps would create a ceiling for defense spending at a level $70+ billion less than FY 19 and a ceiling for non-defense spending at a level $50+ billion less than FY 19. Virtually all Members of Congress support lifting the caps for FY 20 (and possibly FY 21), although there are significant disagreements about what the new levels should be. The President is also part of the negotiations because lifting the caps will require legislation the President could sign or veto.

Q: What else is complicating negotiations this year?

A: Notably, the debt ceiling for the federal government will be breached some time this Fall, risking a possible default on US government securities. So, a government shutdown could occur because there are no spending bills or CRs in place, but also if the country can no longer pay its bills because of a default. Speaker Pelosi and others are determined that a budget deal includes an increase in the debt ceiling. Also, the 2020 election cycle is already under way, but it is still early. If the budget deal covers only FY 20, it risks a repeat of this fight next summer as Congress considers FY 21 spending and right before the election.

Q: What happened when House and Senate leadership — from both parties — sat down this week to negotiate with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, acting White House chief of staff Mulvaney, and OMB acting head Vought

A: As the meeting made clear, there are still substantial differences among the three parties with regard to spending levels and also defense vs. non-defense spending. Negotiating will be needed and, hopefully, be resolved before the fiscal year expires in 14 weeks.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

Advocacy at a Glance

June 24, 2019

Confused By the Budget and Appropriations Process? This week’s Analysis and Commentary explains how the government is funded and why this year’s activities have been hard to follow.

House Likely to Finish Ag/FDA Appropriations on June 22 or 23. By next Tuesday or Wednesday, the House should be finished with H.R 3055, a five-bill minibus that provides about $380 billion in spending for Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD.  At that point, the House will have completed nine of the 12 appropriations bills and will wait for the Senate to pass bills that cover the same agencies as the House. Before adjournment on Friday, the House is expected to have completed consideration of 228 of the 290 amendments that will be offered, setting up completion by the middle of next week.

House Disposition of Amendments to H.R. 3055: Little Change for FDA. As of Thursday night, the House had finished all of the amendments to Part B (Ag/FDA funding). There were two FDA amendments — one related to cannabidiol (adopted by voice vote as part of the Manager’s amendment) and the other to homeopathic drugs (withdrawn). There were also two amendments that would have made across-the-board cuts to all Part B programs. A proposal for a 3.7% cut was withdrawn and an amendment for a 14% cut was defeated 113 to 308.

In Other House Appropriations Action: Bills Are Moving. This week, the House passed H.R. 2740. It included four FY 20 spending bills, totaling nearly $1 trillion: Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Defense, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy-Water Development. Once action is completed on H.R. 3055, the House may consider one or more of the remaining three bills: Department of Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and Treasury-IRS. Leadership’s goal has been to have all 12 spending bills completed in the House before the end of June. However, there are already indications that Homeland Security will not be ready before the July 4 recess.

Senate: Deeming Numbers by July 1 If No Budget Deal. House and Senate leaders met with the President’s team this week to discuss a budget deal. No near-term resolution is expected. As a result, the Senate is prepared to “deem” a set of budget numbers and proceed in July to mark-up appropriations bill. This allows the process to move forward and Senators to sort out their priorities, but everyone understands that final adjustments will be needed once there is a budget deal that provides definitive spending amounts and constraints. Senate leadership has said only that they would be starting with lower aggregate numbers than the House.