Senate Rejects Multiple Budget Proposals

Last week the Senate voted down motions to proceed on five different Republican budget resolutions. The Senate voted 41-58 to reject a budget proposal based on the House-passed Ryan plan and 0-99 to reject a proposal similar to the President’s budget plan. Democrats in the Senate stressed that a vote for the President’s proposal was unnecessary because lawmakers wrote spending caps into a deal agreed last summer to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The Senate also rejected 42-57 a proposal by Senator Pat Toomey that proposes to bring the federal budget into balance over eight years through a combination of tax policy changes and reductions in both mandatory and non-defense discretionary spending.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) signaled that his committee has already proceeded to set FY 2013 budget priorities within the confines of the Budget Control Act (BCA) and that Senate appropriators will abide with the committee allocations accordingly.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week that he will only insist on increasing the debt limit above $16.7 trillion to the extent of enacted spending cuts. He indicated that, if the parties cannot begin negotiations soon, he would have to resort to a number of stop-gap measures to keep the government going.

With Democrats and Republicans at a stalemate on budget matters, the Speaker’s comments may indicate that major budget and tax negotiations will proceed only after the election and, perhaps, be resolved in 2013 when the political landscape is clear. In this regard, House Democrats, including Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), indicated they might support a one-year delay in BCA sequestration.

FDA User-Fee Bills on Track for Reauthorization

The Senate is set to begin voting this week on an increase of more than $2 billion in fees drug makers and medical-device companies will have to pay U.S. regulators through 2017 to review their products for safety and efficacy. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which was enacted in 1992 and has been reauthorized every five years, expires on September 30. The bill that is up for consideration this week would reauthorize the law through fiscal 2017, renewing application, establishment and product fees for prescription-drug makers.

This legislation would let the Food and Drug Administration collect $6.4 billion in fees over five years as well as speed up approval of treatments for life-threatening conditions, enhance safety monitoring of devices after clearance and mitigate drug shortages. The figure includes $1.56 billion to be collected from generic-drug companies, the first time they will be charged for reviews, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate.

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act is similar to a version that was passed last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The House is expected to bring their measure up for a vote the week of May 28th.