Testifying before the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on March 11 and the Senate Appropriations Committee six days later, FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., tried her best to justify the 11.6% spending increase proposed for her agency weeks earlier by President Barack Obama. In today’s budget climate, however, the president and Dr. Hamburg may have to swallow a budget that’s at best flat with the 2011 fiscal year and that more likely will be lower.
In separate spending plans, the House and Senate appropriations committees all but ruled out a significant, if any, increase in FDA spending. Earlier this month, Senate Appropriations approved $2.497 billion, a $50 million, or 2%, increase from current fiscal year for FDA. It was given the go-ahead as part of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies portion of the federal budget, which was set at $19.78 billion. FDA was the only nonsecurity agency to see any increase in funding in the Agriculture-Rural-FDA bill.
The senate panel was kinder to FDA than its House counterpart. In approving a $17.25 billion Agriculture-Rural-FDA budget, House Appropriations voted to spend $283.57 million, or 11.6%, below the current agency budget, leaving it with $2.163 billion for FY ’12. The president had proposed an appropriation of $2.7 billion.
Agriculture-Rural-FDA is one of 12 appropriations bills that comprise the federal budget. Neither that bill nor any other appropriation bill is likely to be voted on as passed. House and Senate leaders are expected ultimately to approve a budget through an “omnibus” bill combining all 12 appropriations bills that comprise the federal budget, despite vocal opposition from some House conservatives.
That bill is expected to set spending for agencies at levels generally higher than what House appropriations approved, since the Budget Control Act called for a total discretionary spending level of $1.043 trillion, higher than the House’s initial proposal of $1.019 trillion; the House has signaled it is moving toward the higher limit.
That doesn’t mean House bills will be identical with Senate bills but does mean the two chambers will be closer in their numbers. “We should see additional dollars to each of the different subcommittees in the House, from what they were told to mark up with, assuming the House Republicans don’t stymie that number,” Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs for the American Association for Cancer Research, told GEN.