House Republicans are laying down new markers for 2012 budget cuts, continuing their battle to weaken consumer protections in the name of fiscal austerity. As I reported earlier this month, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has been quietly leading the push to slash discretionary spending—which must be approved by Congress every year—as party leaders negotiated a budget and deficit deal.
Now, a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration has decided to cut funding for food safety by $87 million, the Washington Post reports, and the full House is likely to pass the reduction as well. Consumer advocates worry the House GOP's food-safety defunding will undermine FDA's ability to enforce a sweeping new food safety law that passed with bipartisan support last year:
Food safety advocates said that without additional money—let alone the current funding FDA receives—the agency will not be able to meet many requirements of the new law, including increased inspections of food manufacturing plants, better coordination with state health departments, and developing the capacity to more quickly respond to food-borne illnesses and minimize their impact.
The proposed cut is in line with previous GOP efforts to defund food safety and other consumer protections. Earlier this year, House Republicans made a far more drastic push to gut funding for food oversight, proposing to cut $241 million from the FDA’s food safety budget for the rest of 2011. The newly proposed $87 million cut for 2012 is relatively less draconian, and as such, it could conceivably be among the discretionary cuts that could make their way into a grand bargain over the budget and debt ceiling. The House GOP's logic for starting out big is becoming increasingly obvious: By moving the goal posts so far to the right, less drastic compromise deals seem moderate by comparison.