The House passed legislation aimed at providing $28 million in emergency funding to the Food and Drug Administration to address the nation’s baby formula shortage in a 231-192 vote Wednesday.
The Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), includes language that looks to prevent “fraudulent products from entering the United States market” and prevent future shortfalls in supplies.
The shortage comes in the wake of one of the nation’s largest producers of infant formula, Abbott Nutrition, voluntarily recalling three types of its product after multiple babies contracted bacterial infections. Roughly 40% of formula has been out of stock since the end of April, and supply chain disruptions have exacerbated the crisis.
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Proponents of the measure argued the bill is necessary to navigate the crisis moving forward.
“We've all heard from constituents all over this country that parents are scared," DeLauro said on the floor ahead of the vote. "They can't find the product, and they're scared that they're going to have a product that may put their child in danger. So we need to address two areas: We need to address the immediate crisis to get products on the shelves as soon as we can, which is what this bill does tonight, along with other measures that the administration is taking.”
House Republican leadership whipped against the bill, arguing that Democrats failed to work in a bipartisan manner and that the bill would not do anything to resolve the current formula crisis.
“In February, a major producer of baby formula closed its doors while inspections occurred after a voluntary recall of formula. Since then, the Biden administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dragged its feet and failed to come up with a plan to mitigate the effects of the closure, and this formula shortage has become a dire emergency for families across the country,” a notice sent by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Wednesday reads.
“Instead of working with Republicans to find bipartisan solutions to address the issue, Speaker Pelosi dropped this legislation yesterday in hopes of covering up the administration’s ineptitude by throwing additional money at the FDA with no plan to actually fix the problem, all while failing to hold the FDA accountable,” it continues.
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Critics argued that the additional funds lack the oversight needed to ensure it is being “used appropriately” and that Congress has already passed legislation to provide the Department of Agriculture with $1 billion for such situations.
“The Biden administration ignored the warning signs that a formula shortage was imminent, sitting on their hands until the shelves were bare. Their incompetence underscores the need for funding to come with guard rails and accountability for the FDA's failures,” Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) said. “Throwing additional money at a problem is the wrong approach. American families need a plan to fix this crisis and to get that baby formula back on store shelves, and they don't need us spending more of their hard-earned money to do it."
The bill passed shortly after President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to address the shortage.