Even as they’ve railed against an extreme shortage of baby formula, particularly Abbott brands that have left Iowa parents scrambling, Reps. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra still voted against a US House bill that provides $28 million to help ease the shortage, with funds for safety inspections, staff addressing the shortfall, and efforts to keep fraudulent products out of the country.
The three Iowa Republican representatives, along with most House Republicans, voted against HR 7790 Wednesday night. Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne voted in favor of it.
The bill, which would allocate an extra $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase inspection staff, still passed the Democrat-majority House. Its future in the Senate is uncertain.
Democrats running to replace those Republicans in November railed against the vote, including Christina Bohannan, who is running against Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
My opponent complains repeatedly about the baby formula shortage.
Today @RepMMM voted NO on a bipartisan bill to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States. Unbelievable.
— Christina Bohannan (@BohannanIowa) May 19, 2022
Anna Brichacek, campaign manager for Hinson’s opponent, Liz Mathis, said the vote was “exactly what everyone hates about Washington” politics.
“Instead of taking action and fixing the problem, Ashley Hinson instead chose to follow the orders of her party boss and vote against a bipartisan bill to help end the shortage of baby formula,” Brichacek said. “Iowa families—and babies—are in danger. You can’t get more out of touch than that.”
On a call with reporters Thursday, Hinson said she voted against the bill because it “comes with very few guardrails to ensure the funding is used appropriately,” claiming there was no requirement for reporting to Congress.
However, the bill requires the FDA commissioner to report to the appropriations committees in the House and Senate weekly. Hinson is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Instead, Hinson said she preferred a different Republican bill that she is co-sponsoring. That bill appears to have similar mandates, but provides no new funding for them.
“I think (my bill) is a long-term supply chain fix here, which is really about accountability and making sure the FDA has a plan,” she said.
Five days before she voted “no” on HR 7790, Hinson tweeted that she would work with “anyone” to fix the formula shortage. That same tweet also included a Fox News clip of her demanding the Biden Administration take action.
My heart goes out to any mom or dad who has gone to the store for baby formula and left empty handed. The FDA needs to be working 24/7 to safely reopen the Abbott facility.
I’ll work with anyone who will work with me to restock baby formula nationwide. pic.twitter.com/WLprawvrRY
— Ashley Hinson (@RepAshleyHinson) May 13, 2022
A different infant formula bill that passed the House last night did get Hinson’s vote, as well as the votes of the vast majority of Republicans and all Democrats.
HR 7791 is aimed at opening up formula options for parents who use the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), who are generally limited to one brand of formula based on state contracts.
Iowa uses Abbott for its WIC contract, a big reason the shortage hit the state harder than others.
Underfunding of the FDA is thought to be one of the reasons problems at Abbott’s Michigan plant were not caught before the company voluntarily recalled its products after two infants died of bacterial infections tied to the formula.
Abbott employees had complained the plant’s facilities were in disrepair for months before the recall, and legislators are now looking into how much Abbott used its profits on stock buybacks instead of investing in fixing problems.
But Abbott and three other infant formula manufacturers also control 90% of the market in the US, a big reason why other nations aren’t also seeing formula shortages at the moment.
When Iowa Starting Line asked if there were conversations happening in Congress related to that domestic monopoly, Hinson said she was focused more on opening up the foreign market for formula.
“We need to make sure, obviously, that we go to countries that have strict standards, because I think the last thing we want is a country like China that does not care about safety for American babies,” she said.
By Amie Rivers
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