On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, congressional committees heard testimony on the reauthorization of FDA user fees. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) heard testimony Tuesday while the House Energy & Commerce Committee held its meeting Wednesday. Dr. Janet Woodcock testified for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) management.
While, as expected, some members of Congress used the hearing as an opportunity to talk about broader health care issues, I am pleased to report that of particular importance to NTEU, there was strong consensus behind the issues we have raised with Congress. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke strongly and articulately as to the need for adequate staffing at FDA and pointedly criticized the administration’s hiring freeze. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) backed her up and joined in the criticism of applying the Trump Administration’s hiring freeze to FDA. In the House hearing, former Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) also raised concerns about the administration’s hiring freeze.
Dr. Woodcock also affirmed what has been NTEU’s long-standing position that FDA employees are heavily recruited into other jobs and most often could make more in the private sector. In agreement with NTEU, she noted that even threats of hiring freezes and budget cuts result in talented professionals at FDA accepting private sector job offers.
Congress will need to reauthorize the user fees before their September 30, 2017, expiration. Of FDA’s budget, 40% currently comes from user fees. NTEU will continue to be a voice for our members at FDA as the user fee reauthorization legislation moves forward.