October 4, 2022
House to vote on bills combating baby formula shortage
The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday night on a pair of bills aimed at combating the nationwide baby formula shortage as Democrats scramble to get more supplies on store shelves.The measures, which are expected to pass, are designed to increase access to formula and provide more funding for the Food and Drug Administration.A measure…

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday night on a pair of bills aimed at combating the nationwide baby formula shortage as Democrats scramble to get more supplies on store shelves.

The measures, which are expected to pass, are designed to increase access to formula and provide more funding for the Food and Drug Administration.

A measure sponsored by Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., would allow more formula to be purchased with money from a federal program that aids low-income women, infants and children, while legislation written by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., would send $28 million to the FDA to help boost the formula supply and prevent future shortages.

President Joe Biden announced earlier Wednesday that he was invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize key ingredients for formula production and to compel suppliers to provide needed resources to manufacturers. He also launched a program that will use U.S. military aircraft to import formula from abroad.

DeLauro, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that most of the money in her bill would pay for additional FDA employees, including inspectors who could help approve domestic or international formula manufacturing companies.

“FDA does not have the adequate inspection force to be able to do that and to do it in a timely way,” DeLauro said. “So the crux of this is providing infrastructure … in order to do what needs to get done. And that is about, as quickly as possible, how we get product in and get it on the shelves.”

She called the legislation “the first step to help restock shelves and end this shortage.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he will try to pass the Senate version of DeLauro’s bill later this week. “We hope no one will block it. It is such an immediate need,” Schumer said.

Republicans bashed DeLauro’s bill ahead of the votes.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., said on the House floor that the legislation “does nothing — I repeat, nothing — to put more formula on store shelves or hold Biden’s FDA accountable for ignoring this crisis.”

He urged his colleagues to vote against the bill.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said at Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting that DeLauro’s bill was designed to make it look as though Democrats “were doing something about this crisis without actually doing anything.”

The shortage is largely connected to an Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan, that the FDA shuttered over a suspected link to the deaths of two infants from bacterial infections. Abbott has denied any wrongdoing.

The FDA announced this week that it had reached an agreement with Abbott to begin reopening the facility, but a court must approve the agreement before it takes effect. Abbott previously said it would take up to two weeks to restart the plant and six to eight weeks more for product to become available in stores.

The Biden administration, which has been working with other producers to increase their output to make up for the shortfall, is looking to ease restrictions on imported formula.

The other bill scheduled for House consideration Wednesday, Hayes’ Access to Baby Formula Act, would allow more formulas to be purchased with benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC.

Hayes’ office said federal data shows Abbott formula products serve 89 percent of the million-plus infants covered by WIC.

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Ali Vitali

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Kyle Stewart

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Haley Talbot

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Garrett Haake

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