WASHINGTON _ The Senate AppropriationsCommittee last Thursday approved a hold-the-line budgetfor the FDA. By unanimous voice vote, the panel set theFDA's fiscal 1996 budget at $189 million, the sameamount as this year's budget.

The FDA was considered a winner compared to otherfederal agencies, such as the Environmental ProtectionAgency, which must lay off a third of its staff.

Earlier in the week the Senate approved a proposal fromthe General Services Administration to consolidate in aWashington suburb some of the FDA offices that theadministration wanted to merge in a much granderconsolidation proposal that Congress killed earlier thisyear. During the debate, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)said the more ambitious FDA consolidation plan diedbecause of a "prickly" attitude toward the agency inCongress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimouslyapproved a biotech process patient bill (S. 1111) identicalto a version already cleared by the House JudiciaryCommittee.

The bill, which has the support of the Clintonadministration, would permit a biotech manufacturer toreceive a patent for a novel process. In the past few years,the same bill has passed the Senate three times and theHouse once. _ Michele L. Robinson

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