AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Over the past week, Democrats have blasted House Republicans for allegedly voting against a bill that would have addressed the baby formula shortage facing the nation. But a closer look at the bill in question quickly reveals that it is little more than a slush fund for career bureaucrats who helped cause the formula shortage in the first place.
Last Wednesday, the House passed two bills intended to relieve the nationwide baby formula shortage. The first, H.R.7791, the “Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022,” focused on cutting through bureaucratic red tape hindering formula availability and passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The second was H.R.7790, the “Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act.” The bill, only four pages in length, doesn’t contain any specifics about how to actually address shortages, but instead makes $28 million available to the FDA to be spent on “salaries and expenses”; in other words, pay raises for unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington.
192 House Republicans voted against the bill, pointing out that it takes no direct action to increase the supply of baby formula, whether in the short term or the long term. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas said that “the Democrats in full Democrat typical liberal fashion think that they can solve every complex issue with just throwing money at it.” The bill “would have zero impact on the current crisis,” he added.
Congressman Peter Meijer (R-MI) also took to Twitter to air his frustration with the bill. He stated that he voted against the bill because “it has no impact on the current crisis and rewards bad agency behavior. This one-page bill is just a $28M increase for FDA salaries. That’s it.” He also asserted that the actual cause of the baby formula shortage is “bureaucratic dithering.”
Nonetheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats were quick to label the Republican Party as heartless and uncaring toward the needs of mothers. Multiple mainstream media outlets amplified this claim, echoing Democrat talking points. Vanity Fair ran the headline, “192 Republicans Decide They’d Like Formula-Seeking Parents to Keep Suffering.” The Daily Beast proclaimed that Republicans “hate Democrats more than they love babies.” While the accusations and hit pieces were heavily critical of the GOP, none explained what was actually in the bill and why Republicans refused to support it.
Instead of simply taking Democrats at their word that the bill would address the baby formula shortage, an honest journalist might ask a few questions of Democrats that no mainstream outlet has. Why, for instance, do Democrats believe that increasing the salaries of FDA employees will ease the formula shortage in the short term? Better yet, has the FDA commissioner or any other FDA official ever claimed a lack of agency funding specifically caused the baby formula shortage?
A reasonable and warranted line of inquiry might also ask what role the FDA has played in foreseeing and trying to stave off the current shortage – a particularly important question if Congress is considering giving the agency $28 million more to spend between now and September 30. Why should taxpayers fork over tens of millions of dollars if an agency has failed to prove that it is capable of doing anything to alleviate the problem?
On this last point, it is more likely that, far from being able to solve the problem, the FDA helped cause it in the first place. Recently, for example, the FDA ordered an investigation into formula maker Abbott Nutrition and then forced the closure of one of their leading factories indefinitely. While the FDA’s reasoning for closing the plant may be perfectly legitimate and necessary for the health and safety of babies (although that is not proven), neither the FDA nor any government agency developed any sort of plan to fill that gap in supply. It’s unclear how throwing more money at those same bureaucrats who failed to do their job the first time around will somehow make a difference now.
The bill will now head to the Senate, where some Republicans have already come out strongly against it. Since the bill will have to clear the 60-vote threshold to avoid the filibuster, the GOP stands a good chance of defeating it if the party remains united and doesn’t cave to pressure from dishonest attacks by Democrats and the mainstream media.
Republicans also have an opportunity to turn Democrats’ strategy back on them. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, for example, has introduced his own legislation aimed at combatting the crisis. But instead of sending more tax dollars to the FDA, Lee’s bill would waive regulations that don’t cover what’s in the actual formula (like import restrictions), a strategy that stands a real chance of alleviating the shortage almost immediately. Should Democrats oppose or vote against that measure, they would open themselves up to legitimate criticism.
Democrats have shown once again that when handed power, their primary focus is not helping the American people or solving real problems, but trying to trap Republicans with messaging votes and enriching themselves and their allies. But as crises continue to pile up, Americans are waking up to this fact, and may soon make clear their displeasure at the ballot box.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.