One hundred and ninety-two GOP lawmakers voted against $28 million in emergency funding.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed an emergency funding bill to address the United States' ongoing baby formula shortage, which has left parents in a desperate hunt for food for their infants.
Nearly every single House Republican voted against the $28 million package, which would help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration address the current shortage and help prevent similar shortages in the future. The $28 million would go toward hiring more FDA inspection staff for formula plants in the United States.
The bill passed by a margin of 231-192, with just 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting for the bill.
The current formula shortage is due to safety violations at an Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgis, Michigan. Four infants were hospitalized with rare bacterial infections after being fed formula produced at the plant, and two of the infants died.
Those hospitalizations and deaths led to a February recall of some of the most popular formula brands in the United States, including Similac and EleCare — a formula for infants and children with severe allergies. Abbott also stopped production at the Sturgis plant while the FDA conducted a six-week investigation of the facility.
Three months after the plant stoppage, it remains closed, leaving other formula producers in the country unable to keep up with the increased demand. Nearly all of the formula consumed in the United States — 98% — is made domestically, due both to FDA safety regulations and tariffs that make importing formula expensive.
On Tuesday, the FDA announced it came to an agreement with Abbott about what changes the company must make in order to restart production at the Sturgis plant. However, it's unclear when Abbott will complete those changes. And even then, Abbott says it will take between six to eight weeks for the new formula to hit shelves.
Aside from the House's emergency funding bill, President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced more measures to help alleviate the formula shortage, including invoking the Defense Production Act to increase supply and using federal resources to quickly import more formula from abroad.
On May 12, Biden announced other measures to try to help the shortage, including loosening restrictions on the kind of formula parents can obtain through the federal Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC). A majority of formula consumed in the United States is purchased with WIC benefits.
The House passed another bill on Wednesday, the Access to Baby Formula Act, which would make it easier for parents who use WIC benefits to buy formula to purchase formula during the crisis. That bill passed by a vote of 414-9, with every "no" vote coming from Republican lawmakers. Among the "no" votes on that bill were Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Republicans defended their vote against the funding bill, complaining that it added to the deficit and that it didn't go far enough to address the current problem.
"Last night, the House passed the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act. There are many things the Administration and Congress can do to help America's families, but one thing we shouldn't do is provide a $28 million check to the FDA with no offsets and no real solutions," Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), one of the 192 Republicans who voted against the bill, tweeted.
House Democrats sharply criticized Republicans for voting against the $28 million in funding.
"Republicans aren't interested in solutions. They're interested in theater and chaos," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on Wednesday night. "@HouseDemocrats offered a baby formula solution to help your family. Almost every @HouseGOP member voted against it."
"Last night, 192 Republicans voted against emergency funding to address our infant formula shortage. 192 Republicans voted against providing relief to families and their infants," Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) tweeted Thursday morning. "Tell me again how they are the pro-life party?"
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.