The baby formula shortage, explained badly

Your boy here got caught in the weeds reading up on the two baby formula bills which Congress passed earlier this week. I was going to do a whole thing where I got really into the bills and what they do and don’t do, and perhaps touch on the monopoly that Abbott Labs has on the baby formula market, and also maybe express my grief that one company has such control over an important supply chain. But then I ate some leftover beef and broccoli and got tired.

Basically, H.R. 7790 gives the FDA $28 million to expand their bandwidth to inspect baby formula so long as the Commissioner of Food and Drugs checks in weekly to provide updates. H.R. 7791 opens up more types of baby formula that people can purchase using WIC benefits. The votes in the House on these bills were 231-192 for H.R. 7790 and 414-9 for H.R. 7791. All Democrats plus twelve Republicans voted for H.R. 7790; the nine nays for H.R. 7791 were these fine specimens of humans: Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Thomas Massie, Clay Higgins, Louie Gohmert, and Chip Roy. I’m sure they all had good reasons for their votes and don’t at all smell like old sweat.

The Republican opposition to H.R. 7790 I understand. The conservative wing of Congress doesn’t like to see more money sent to the FDA when the agency’s already received a good deal of funds from the government. And the wording of the bill seems like it just gives the FDA $28 million without any repercussions. But the bill does include phrasing that shows that the government intends to hold the agency accountable for making positive progress on the shortage instead of just pocketing the check. And in this emergency situation, when the one company responsible for a good deal of the formula on the shelves has pooped the bed with respect to supply, it would behoove the government to provide a reasonable amount of aid to make sure that supply not only gets on the shelves but also doesn’t make kids sick.

But when it comes to H.R. 7791, a bill which almost all of Congress approved, I don’t get why nine members decided to jump in a hole. The bill introduces protections in the event of a baby formula shortage-causing supply chain disruption such as the one we’re experiencing now. It gives people who can’t buy certain formulas with WIC benefits the ability to do so, providing relief for families all across the country. To vote against it seems not like any valuable opinion; rather, it seems like a political act meant to stick it to the current administration.

The theory doesn’t suck. Take a look at Greene’s Twitter if it doesn’t cause you pain; on the day that Congress was working on getting H.R. 7790 and H.R. 7791 passed, Greene and Gohmert hand-delivered a letter signed by them and Biggs, Gosar, and Gaetz to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urging her to let Congress conduct an inspection of the D.C. jail. While I don’t doubt the deplorable conditions of the jail, I know that those five don’t care about the jail conditions so much as they care about making sure their friends who participated in the January 6th insurrection aren’t getting boo-boos and noogies.

While you can’t expect every congressperson to give an explanation for their every vote, you can use other means to determine where their priorities lie. All nine of the congresspeople who voted no on H.R. 7791 were too busy talking about either January 6th, the 2016 election, or the aid to Ukraine. Gohmert did mention the baby formula shortage and his nay vote, but he brought up H.R. 7790, not H.R. 7791. So these nine congresspeople focused more on their personal gripes with the government rather than an issue that when fixed will do wonders for the American family, something which I thought mattered to Republicans. Well, I always think that it matters until I remember all of the wild shit that Republicans have pulled over the last many years. This isn’t an endorsement of the Democrats, by the way, but since politics is a lesser-of-two-evils game, the Dems certainly come out on the winning end in my coloring book.

My final take: The FDA has the money they need to get the job done of getting safe baby formula back on the shelves. They’d better not fuck around, and the proper branch of government responsible for holding the FDA accountable had better do so. Meanwhile, those focused on healing their bruised egos and placing blame had better start focusing on actual solutions to real problems if they want any sort of political clout or consideration as serious public servants rather than crybabies. If Republicans who voted no on both or either H.R. 7790 or H.R. 7791 claim that neither bill would get the job done, they’d damned better have their own proposals for solutions. Otherwise, they’re about as useful as a dry teat to a hungry baby, and that baby’s gonna cry all night long.

I like doing this sort of half-assed political analysis. I don’t know what I’m talking about, but the catharsis feels good.

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