Despite Congress' efforts, it'll take time to refill the baby bottles

Ariel Cohen, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

“There is infant formula available. At the same time, we are absolutely mindful of how challenging this is,” a White House senior administration official told reporters Monday night. She suggested that families consider switching formula brands and advised them not to make their own formula at home or water down formula.

Pelosi said the biggest issues with the formula shortage include determining where shortages are and distributing the supply evenly. Congress is looking at partnering with private sector facilities to help move supply, and DeLauro’s bill could help speed that process, Pelosi said. The $28 million emergency supplemental could also help the FDA quickly inspect baby formula production plants abroad.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., are working on another baby formula bill that would target shortages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. About half of babies in the United States access formula through WIC. The Department of Agriculture recently extended flexibilities in formula brands that WIC recipients can purchase, and Stabenow and Scott’s bill would make those flexibilities permanent.

Senate Republicans did not immediately commit to supporting the House’s baby formula supplemental. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the administration needs to focus on bringing in formula from abroad and upping U.S. supply.

Several Republican senators, including Richard C. Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, both of Alabama, said they wanted to see more details on how the bill will help families.

“I’d be glad to look at it, though I’d be surprised if it solved any problem in the next couple of weeks,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.


Committee scrutiny

Several committees have scheduled hearings on the infant formula shortage.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing May 25 on the formula shortage, Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf is set to attend, as are representatives from the baby food companies Abbott, Gerber and Reckitt.

The House Appropriations Committee will hold two hearings over the coming week to examine the shortage of infant formula.

On May 19, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing with Califf on the FDA’s 2023 budget request as well as oversight of infant formula. On May 25, the same subcommittee plans to convene a panel of experts to discuss the shortage.

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