House passes $28 million baby formula shortage bill

Health

Shelves typically stocked with baby formula sit mostly empty at a store in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Parents across the U.S. are scrambling to find baby formula because supply disruptions and a massive safety recall have swept many leading brands off store shelves. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(NewsNation) — Aiming to fix the nationwide baby formula shortage, the House of Representatives passed a bill allocating $28 million to boost resources at the Food and Drug Administration.

The bill passed by a party-line vote of 231-192 Wednesday. It’s unclear whether the Senate will do the same.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) said money from the bill would increase FDA staffing to help inspect domestic and international suppliers, prevent fraudulent products from getting onto store shelves and acquire better data on the marketplace.

“I am shocked by the infant formula crisis,” she said. “The shortage we are seeing today is in large part caused by some who chose not to prioritize the health and the safety of our babies.”

Supplies of baby formula across the country have been severely curtailed in recent weeks after a February recall by Abbott Nutrition exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions.

“Congress will be scrutinized in this crisis with the FDA and manufacturers in the days ahead,” Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia) said.

One of the Republicans who voted against the bill, Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, said he did so because only $5 million of the $28 million will be put more baby formula on shelves.

“They’re just going to hire a bunch of people,” he said. “And then, of course, they’ll have to have assistants and fax machines and all those things that government seems to always have.”

Burchett said he wrote a letter to the U.S. and Tennessee’s Attorney Generals because he is concerned about price gouging that he thinks will only continue “until this thing gets alleviated.”

The baby formula shortage “was all preventable,” Burchett said.

“The Biden administration has known about this problem,” he said.

“This administration just had its head in the sand about everything from gas prices to prices in the supermarket to what’s going on overseas in Afghanistan.”

However, DeLauro said that the $28 million is necessary for the FDA, especially after President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up infant formula production and authorize flights to import supply from overseas.

“Now that we are ramping up production and preparing to purchase formula from abroad, we must ensure that it is safe,” DeLauro said in a statement.

Other Democrats had harsh words for their colleagues across the aisle who voted against the funding bill.

“Republicans aren’t interested in solutions. They’re interested in theater and chaos,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) said in a tweet. “@HouseDemocrats offered a baby formula solution to help your family. Almost every @HouseGOP member voted against it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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