On Wednesday, 192 House Republicans voted against a bill to provide $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase inspection staff—remember that a key reason for the shortage was concerns about contamination forcing the closure of a major formula plant—as well as preventing the sale of fraudulent formula during the crisis and improving data collection. Just 12 voted for the bill. Nine House Republicans also voted against a bill to ensure that people on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can access formula, given a system where states contract with specific formula companies and if those brands are out of stock, WIC recipients cannot get anything else.
Washington state Sen. Emily Randall and RuralOrganizing.org's Matt Hildreth talk about what they're seeing and hearing while knocking on doors this week on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast
That latter bill did pass the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday, so there are nine House Republicans who are even worse than Republicans senators like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. But prospects for the FDA funding to pass the Senate are dim.
In addition to voting against funding to tackle the crisis, Republicans have used the formula shortage for vile partisan attacks basically calling for the Biden administration to starve immigrant babies in U.S. custody. Republican after Republican howled in outrage that border facilities had some formula on hand for migrant babies detained after being brought across the border—as is required by a long-standing legal settlement that calls for the government to offer people in its custody basic humane treatment, including feeding them. Which, for babies, means formula. For those who are not breastfed, no other food will do. Even Donald Trump abided by this requirement, with a 2020 Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report on how the federal government was handling migrants arriving at the border in 2019 including the line, “We also observed all Border Patrol stations had food, snacks, juice, and infant formula available for children.”
Now that formula is in the headlines, though, Republicans used it as a political tool to demand that the U.S. government starve immigrant babies.
The Abbott Laboratories formula plant that was forced to close, turning a mild formula shortage into a crisis, is slated to reopen in the next week or two following a consent decree with the FDA that includes safety upgrades and certifications. Once it reopens, it could take as long as two months for it to affect the formula supply, but it’s a positive development. Military flights importing formula from other countries can hopefully fill the gaps in the meantime by providing the most specialized formulas needed by babies with allergies and more serious health conditions.
One thing we do know is that however the formula crisis ends, it will be no thanks to Republicans.
The top Republican talking point on the formula shortage is truly vile
Worsening shortage leaves parents searching for the formula they need to feed their babies