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House Appropriators Advance FY21 Spending Bills

The House Appropriations Committee is moving forward with fiscal year 2021 (FY21) spending legislation, advancing bills out of committee last week with floor votes set to begin later this week. The panel approved the AgricultureFood and Drug Administration (FDA) bill by voice vote. The legislation includes nearly $24 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $487 million over FY20. The FDA would receive $3.2 billion, a $40.8 million budget increase. Total FDA funding including user fees would be approximately $6 billion. The panel added a provision to the bill that would give the FDA recall authority over prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) products. The amendment’s sponsor, Subcommittee Chair Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) stated that the FDA unofficially supports the change. The bill also strengthens the agency’s ability to regulate e-cigarettes and cosmetic products.

The Appropriations Committee also advanced the Military Construction-VA spending bill by a vote of 30-20. The bill includes $115.5 billion in discretionary spending, a $5.1 billion increase over current levels. The measure would provide a $9.8 billion increase for veterans’ medical care totaling $90 billion.

The FY 21 State and Foreign Operations spending bill was also approved by the committee last week, and includes more than $10 billion in coronavirusrelated funding: $2.5 billion for global health programs; $1.5 billion for the Economic Support Fund; nearly $1.3 billion for international organizations and programs for the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan; more than $1.1 billion for International Disaster Assistance; $955 million for diplomatic programs; and $900 million for development assistance. It would also require the administration to send $200 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) within 60 days of enactment, despite the President’s recent decision to withdraw the U.S. from WHO.

The panel also approved top-line spending figures for all 12 appropriations bills by a 29-21 vote, which provide for $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending plus $247.4 billion in emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic and for veterans’ health care. Republicans objected to the inclusion of the emergency funds, arguing that the additional spending violates the two-year budget cap deal reached last summer.

On the subcommittee level, the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee advanced its $196.5 billion spending measure by a 9-6 vote last week. The bill would provide the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with $96.4 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of $1.5 billion over current levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive $9 billion in emergency supplemental funding, including $400 million toward modernizing public health data, $2 billion toward improving state and local public health responses, and $1.17 billion toward investing in the public health workforce, laboratory support, and state and local jurisdictions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive a record $5.5 billion increase, bringing the agency’s budget to $47 billion. The measure includes $4.5 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop and produce vaccines and therapeutics in response to public health emergencies. BARDA is directed to use $500 million for antibacterial research and development and another $500 million for next generation vaccine manufacturing facility enhancements. The spending bill would require HHS to provide weekly reports to Congress about the composition of and distributions from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The bill would also prohibit a Trump administration regulation allowing health care workers to deny care based on their religious or moral beliefs from going into effect. The committee released the Labor/HHS committee report over the weekend. The full Appropriations Committee plans to mark up the legislation this afternoon.

Appropriators hope to finish all 12 markups before Wednesday. Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is seeking to speed up floor consideration of the FY21 bills, potentially moving floor consideration of Defense legislation to Tuesday and consideration of the Homeland Security bill to Wednesday, in the hopes of voting on almost all of the spending bills by the end of the month. Senate appropriators have not yet spelled out the process they plan to use; it is likely that a stopgap spending measure will be needed to fund the federal government from the end of the current fiscal year past Election Day.

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