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Federal money to help fix baby formula shortage? Utah GOP congressmen say no

Cyndle Bass feeds 5-month-old Austin formula at their Eagle Mountain home on May 11. All four of Utah's Republican congressmen voted against providing $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration to address the issue.

Cyndle Bass feeds 5-month-old Austin formula at their Eagle Mountain home on May 11. All four of Utah's Republican congressmen voted against providing $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration to address the issue. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

WASHINGTON — While criticizing the Biden administration for not doing enough to deal with the nationwide baby formula shortage, all four of Utah's Republican congressmen voted against providing $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration to address the issue.

Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart were among the 192 GOP House members who opposed the measure, which passed with 231 votes largely along party lines. Twelve Republicans broke ranks and joined with Democrats supporting the bill.

House Republicans argued providing money to the FDA is unnecessary and that it would do little to get at the root of the problem.

Stewart said in a tweet that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., shut Republicans out of good-faith negotiations to solve the baby formula crisis. He said the bill doesn't force the FDA to develop a plan, account for excess stocks or leverage existing transportation capabilities.

Only Stewart's office responded to a request for comment on the vote.

While opposing more federal spending, Utah's congressmen have proposed their own legislation to combat the shortage of baby formula.

Stewart and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proposed the Fixing Our Regulatory Mayhem Upsetting Little Americans or FORMULA Act, which targets supply chain disruption by temporarily waiving current trade barriers like tariffs and quotas on importation that reduce the supply and increase the price of available foreign-made formula. The bill would waive regulations that prevent the importation of safe baby formula from abroad.

The measure also lets Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC program recipients use vouchers to purchase formula from any producer rather than be limited to the brand or product listed on specific vouchers, which may be unavailable.

Owens signed on to the Access to Baby Act, which would require manufacturers to submit a plan with their bids for contracts covering how they would address an emergency or disruption without impacting WIC recipients. It also allows the agriculture secretary to issue waivers in the event of an emergency to help formula get back on the shelves quickly.

The shortage has been blamed on ongoing supply chain disruptions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and manufacturer Abbott issuing a recall for products made at a Michigan plant and sold under the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare labels. Four children — one in Minnesota, one in Texas and two in Ohio — fell ill with bacterial infections after being fed the products, and two died, according to The Washington Post.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to bolster production of infant formula and restock store shelves. Under the act, suppliers are being ordered to "ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe, healthy infant formula here at home," according to a White House fact sheet.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, last week called on the FDA and the Department of Agriculture to do more to ensure the availability of baby formula.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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