The House also passed a bill to ensure that people on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, can access formula. WIC recipients can only get the specific brands of formula their states have contracted for—very often Similac, a brand made by Abbott Laboratories, the company forced to close a plant—and if the stores don’t have the right brand, WIC recipients cannot purchase formula. That’s a major problem when many brands are sold out.
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The White House has already gotten a commitment from Abbott to rebate states with which it has contracts for the purchase of other formulas for WIC recipients. But protecting WIC recipients from situations like this should be in the law, not a special circumstance.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Jahana Hayes, would give the USDA “the authority to waive certain requirements so that vulnerable families can continue purchasing safe infant formula with their WIC benefits during extenuating circumstances, such as a public health emergency or supply chain disruption. The bill will also ensure that WIC participants are better protected during a product recall.”
That bill passed on a strongly bipartisan vote of 414 to nine. The nine votes against were obviously all Republicans, and you can probably guess several of the names:
- Rep. Thomas Massie
- Rep. Paul Gosar
- Rep. Chip Roy
- Rep. Andy Biggs
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene
- Rep. Lauren Boebert
- Rep. Clay Higgins
- Rep. Matt Gaetz
- Rep. Louie Gohmert
These are people who voted against families getting basic protections from major market disruptions to the single available food many babies can have. If the families are poor, anyway.
Now the question is whether the Senate will pass the two formula-related bills. The WIC one has a good chance—it already has nine Republican cosponsors. The bill giving the FDA extra funding to handle the crisis, which the vast majority of House Republicans opposed, may not be able to get past the Republican filibuster in the Senate, because that’s just how thoroughly Republicans have dismantled the ability to govern.
Help is on the way—the shuttered Abbott formula plant is also expected to reopen in about two weeks, under tight oversight, leading to more formula hitting shelves in six to eight weeks—but this is an emergency, with parents searching from store to store and desperately calculating how many days of formula they have left. Multiple levers have been pushed to ease the shortage. It’s unlikely that any of the short-term fixes are enough on their own, but together they may help families get through the worst.
Worsening shortage leaves parents searching for the formula they need to feed their babies