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FDA and Election 2010: Deficit Reduction and Appropriations

As a result of the 2010 Mid-Term election, Republicans have netted more than 60 seats and taken control of the House of Representatives, effective in January.  The Senate will remain in Democratic hands, but with a much slimmer majority.

So-called "wave elections"–where one party overwhelms the other–are particularly hard to judge. The ground rules are going to change dramatically– in ways that no one can fully anticipate. At first, each side refuses to compromise. Then, something happens that sets the pattern for whether people will work together and on what issues. This may take months to resolve or may occur before the new Congress arrives.

As things change, FDA Matters thinks there are some key issues for FDA-watchers to monitor:  

Regardless of how Democrats, Republicans and the President choose to interact in 2011, there will be a working majority in both House and Senate for significant deficit reduction.

  • This is not a good budget environment for FDA or any federal agency with growing responsibilities.
  • If deficit reduction is based on evaluating each agency and program and identifying national priorities, then the case for increased FDA funding is very strong.
  • If deficit reduction is accomplished by "across the board" cuts, then FDA may still be treated as an exception. However, it will be far more difficult to make the case for FDA as a budget-cutting exception.

The direction of deficit reduction is yet-to-be determined.

  • There is a large difference between campaign rhetoric and the realities of reducing the deficit.
  • Congress has never been able to break "the iron triangle of deficit reduction:"
    • Republicans don’t want new taxes, making it hard to generate more revenue.  
    • Democrats don’t want to change entitlement programs, making it hard to significantly decrease expenditures.
    • Everyone’s favorite punching bag–discretionary spending–isn’t large enough or growing fast enough to produce deficit reduction on the scale required.
  • Budget deficits are not calculated using ordinary math. For example:
    • The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. Re-instating them is an additional "cost" that will widen the deficit–even though tax rates will stay the same.
    • Similarly, health care reform provided about $800 billion in savings to offset its $800 billion cost. Thus, repealing or defunding any parts of health care reform associated with cost savings….could wind up increasing costs and widening the deficit.  

The situation in both House and Senate is fluid with regard to committee assignments, chairmanships and leadership.

  • Republicans in the House and Senate will be increasing their numbers on each Committee. A number of current Republican members will be moving up in seniority and may have new opportunities and choices to make.
  • Democrats in the House and Senate will be decreasing their numbers on each committee. While this would normally tend to freeze committee positions, a number of very senior Democrats will not be back, opening up opportunities. One person’s decision could affect the choices available to a dozen other members.
  • In sum, expect changes in the committees that authorize, appropriate and oversee FDA.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA has been preparing for this much tougher budget environment. The Alliance recognized a year ago that the federal budget situation was likely to deteriorate and has spent the intervening time building the case for FDA to be seen as an exception to budget-cutting. More recently, they have started talking about how a strong, well-resourced FDA is important to jobs and economic growth in the US.  

For those readers who are not members, I strongly recommend joining. The membership includes consumer and patient advocacy groups, health professional societies, research advocacy groups, associations, companies, law firms and consulting firms, and individuals.

Every additional member strengthens the Alliance’s position in advocating for increased funding for FDA.  


For purposes of disclosure: I am one of the founders and Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. It is the only multi-stakeholder group devoted to education and advocacy to increase the appropriated resources available to FDA. For more information about the Alliance, go to www.StrengthenFDA.org or write to me at sgrossman@StrengthenFDA.org.


Deficit Hawks in the New Congress Threaten FDA Funding


    October 17th, 2010


FDA Matters doesn’t know who the majority party in the House and Senate will be next year. There seem to be a very large number of races where incumbents are vulnerable or are too close to call. The fate of FDA will be driven by the post-election tone of Congress, more than by the fates of individual Members or who holds the majority. Read the rest of this entry »


FDA Funding for FY 11: Back to the Future


    October 3rd, 2010


Not so long ago, FDA’s appropriation barely budged from year-to-year. A good year was a 2% to 3% increase. This changed four years ago, after the formation of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. The agency’s case for more resources—always a good one—finally had an independent, multi-stakeholder voice. Champions on the Hill and in the Executive Branch emerged.

The agency appropriation has grown 50% in the last three fiscal years. So far, FY 11 looks more like the past than it does the last few years. FDA Matters believes that the consequences could be severe. Read the rest of this entry »

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