The latest campaign ad for Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) starts with one of the half-truths she’s known to trot out.
“When the baby formula shortage hit, Ashley Hinson worked to increase the supply,” women say at the beginning of Hinson’s “WORKS FOR MOMS” ad which dropped last Thursday.
That’s not quite correct, though she did join her Democratic colleagues in May to vote for HR 7791, which opened up formula options for parents who use the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Those families are typically restricted to one brand of formula, and the brand is dependent on state contracts.
In Iowa, that brand is Abbott, which was the company at the center of the product recalls that caused the shortage.
HR 7791 passed the House and was later signed by President Joe Biden.
But there was another bill, HR 7790, that would have allocated extra money to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase inspection staff. It would also have included steps to prevent fraudulent products.
As reported by Starting Line at the time, Hinson, along with most Republicans, voted “no.” She preferred the Republican version of the bill introduced by Elise Stefanik (R-New York).
That bill had similar provisions but it didn’t have the new funding for the FDA.
This has become a consistent strategy for Hinson—vote against a Democratic bill on an issue she says she cares about, then introduce or sign onto a very watered-down version that has no chance of passing in order to say she still fought for it.
“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,” Hinson said.
On a call with reporters in May, 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.
That isn’t true.
The bill would require the FDA commissioner to submit weekly reports to the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. Hinson is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and would have seen those reports.
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
Abbott issued a voluntary recall of a number of powder baby formulas earlier this year because of bacterial infections that killed two infants. The shortage happened in part because Abbott and three other companies control 90% of the formula market in the US.
Underfunding of the FDA is thought to be one of the other reasons why the Abbott Michigan plant’s problems weren’t caught sooner.
A former Abbott employee submitted a report to the FDA outlining several issues at the plant in Sturgis, including falsified records, releasing untested infant formulas, issues with cleaning practices, and failure of the site to make corrections.
The FDA received the report in October 2021, but did not inspect the plant until the end of January 2022. Their findings indicated more problems than just the bacterial infection.
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