By Tara Kavaler | Arizona Republic
Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona were among nine U.S. House Republicans who this week voted against legislation to help indigent families obtain baby formula to feed their children.
The House of Representatives voted 243-9 Wednesday to pass the Access to Baby Formula Act.
The bill, among other things, would expand the number of baby formulas covered by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in rare circumstances when the program-approved ones are unavailable.
The United States is facing a baby formula shortage because of a number of reasons, including: supply chain issues, monopolistic baby formula market, the shuttering of Abbott Nutrition’s, a major production company, largest plant and WIC contracts with formula manufacturers.
Families in poverty face a further financial burden in obtaining baby formula because it can be prohibitively expensive. The Access to Baby Formula Act tries to amend the situation where they must pay out-of-pocket if the formula that is covered is not available.
Not all babies can be breastfed for a multitude of reasons, such as severe allergies. There are also babies who can only consume a certain type of formula for health reasons.
“Spending nearly $30 million more will do nothing to the baby formula crisis created by the Biden administration,” Gosar told The Arizona Republic in a written statement. “The fact is, the Biden administration’s FDA knew about the formula shortage for months and refused to work with the impacted baby formula manufacturing plant to enable it to reopen and get supplies back on the shelves. Throwing taxpayer money at a problem and hoping it goes away is not a valid solution.”
Biggs tweeted Wednesday night to explain his vote: “It is imperative to find solutions to address Biden’s baby formula crisis. But what my congressional colleagues have proposed tonight does not address the core issues of this crisis.”‘
Biggs spokesperson Matthew Tragesser told The Republic: “He wants to pass legislation that effectively addresses the Biden Baby Formula crisis. The two bills last night have nice titles but they don’t really address the core issues at hand. He wants to end this shortage just as much as anyone else in this country.”
While WIC eligibility varies by state, in Arizona the requirements for a family of two is up $652 weekly, or a family of four making up to $988. WIC is the largest buyer of baby formula in the U.S.
The Access to Baby Formula Act was passed alongside another bill known as the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act. That legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration approximately $28 million to boost the agency’s work related to the baby formula crisis.
The two bills now are awaiting action in the Senate.