Nearly two dozen members of Congress have written to leaders of the House of Representatives imploring them to exempt user fee-funded agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from having those fees taken away.
The cuts are currently in place, the results of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which stated that if Democrats and Republicans were unable to come up with substantial, voluntary cuts to federal expenditures, an automatic trigger would be activated that would call for $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the coming decade.
Legislators failed to reach an accord, and the cuts went into effect in 2013, robbing FDA of approximately $112 million in user fees and $206 million in congressionally appropriated funding.
However, unlike the appropriated funding, which may be used by the US Treasury to pay down the national debt, funding obtained from sequestered user fee programs is unable to be spent by the Treasury, and is instead sitting in an account and unable to be used.
While that has led for some calls for the funding to be returned to the agencies to blunt the effects of the sequester, no legislation has yet been signed into law.
New Effort to Free the Fees
Now a new effort is afoot to exempt not just FDA, but all user fee-funded federal agencies from having their user fees taken away under the sequester.
In a 21 November letter co-signed by 21 legislators, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) implored leaders of the House and Senate budget conferences to consider the expanded duties of these agencies and the role user fees play in allowing them to accomplish their statutorily-mandated tasks.
FDA, Honda noted, is attempting to implement the terms of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) of 2012, which included significant user fee increases.
FDA has already been denied access to $85 million in user fees to date, Honda observed.
"We believe that funding for these fee-based agencies is fundamentally different from other government spending and does not contribute to the budget deficit, and thus should not be subject to sequestration," the legislators wrote.
"[These] fees have come to represent an important collaboration between FDA and industry," they added. The Senate and House budget conferences, in drafting budgets for the next fiscal year, could specifically exempt FDA from the cuts.
"Our letter is a commonsense request to keep the agencies that rely on outside funding fully open for business," Honda said in a press statement. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I know firsthand that job growth, economic improvement, and the well-being of the American people are at stake."
Read the letter here