The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to pass the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, a $28 million emergency spending bill aimed at addressing a dire shortage of infant formula in the USA.
The legislation saw ‘no’ votes from 192 House Republicans, including a Florida lawmaker who sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s administration for the shortage and drew public attention last week to shipments of infant formula at the border for immigrants.
Supply chain issues and a voluntary recall of several types of powdered infant formula from the country’s largest infant formula producer, which remains closed following the detection of environmental bacteria in “free contact areas product” of the establishment, have contributed to a shortage that leaves many American families scared and desperate.
The emergency spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday “provides appropriations to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to (1) address the current shortage of FDA-regulated infant formula and certain medical foods in the United States; and (2) prevent future shortages, including taking steps to prevent fraudulent products from entering the United States market.”
In a statement shared with Newsweek On its decision to vote against the bill, Rep. Kat Cammack’s team said the law “does nothing to quickly get infant formula back on the shelves – something the American people and parents have desperately need”.
“It gives millions of dollars to unelected FDA bureaucrats who have failed miserably to do anything about this crisis. It was only after House Republicans sounded the alarm that the Biden administration has chosen to do anything, and this bill comes with few safeguards to ensure funds are used appropriately and in time to address the scarcity the American people are facing. faced,” the statement read.
“Congress has already provided funds to address supply chain issues, but this administration has decided to sit on that billion dollars, especially since just two months ago the FDA received a budget increase of $102 million, including $11 million for maternal and child health and nutrition.House Republicans offer several better and more effective alternatives to this legislation and will continue to fight to ensure control strict and comprehensive approach to this disaster created by the Biden administration,” he added.
In a video posted to Facebook last week, Cammack explained that a Texas Border Patrol agent informed her that he had taken pallets of immigrant formula. She pointed out that the children receiving the formula were not at fault, but expressed their anger at what she described as “another example of the ‘America last’ agenda”.
She is among several Republicans who have criticized the Biden administration for ensuring the availability of infant formula for immigrants while many Americans struggle to find sufficient supplies. The White House has since defended sending infant formula across the border as the “morally right thing to do” and a requirement under the Flores settlement agreement.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also denounced Republican criticism during an interview with CBS on Tuesday.
“We take care of the basic needs of the people in our care. We take care of the basic needs of babies, and that includes formula,” he told CBS. “The connection between meeting our humanitarian and legal obligation to these babies and a supply problem inside the United States is false and repugnant.”
Cammack has called out the Biden administration since the Facebook video was shared last week. In a Twitter thread on Thursday, she said closing the Abbott Nutrition factory in Sturgis, Michigan, “without a plan to refill” its supply, was “irresponsible.”
“Putting America’s children first is the responsible thing to do. Having a secure border that (sic) is the responsible thing to do,” she tweeted.
Operations at the Abbott plant were halted in February following several complaints of deaths and illnesses in infants who had consumed formula from the facility. The FDA on Monday announced a timeline for resuming operations, but it was estimated that it could take up to 10 weeks for products to start returning to shelves.
The White House also said Wednesday that Biden had invoked the Defense Production Act to help expedite the production and delivery of infant formula.
Update 5/19/22, 12:20 PM ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the Cammack team.