DENVER – Rep. Lauren Boebert, the 3rd Congressional District Republican, was one of nine Republicans who voted against two bills that passed the House Wednesday aimed at addressing the nationwide baby formula shortage.
The House voted 414-9 to first pass a bill, the Access to Baby Formula Act, that allows the government to waive certain requirements for low-income families using the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to continue buying formula through vouchers, even during a shortage.
According to the House Education and Labor Committee, about half of the formula sold in the U.S. is bought with WIC benefits, though WIC only allows certain formulas to be purchased with the government funds.
And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 90% of infants who are part of WIC use Abbott Nutrition’s formulas – the company which is at the center of the shortage.
As of March 2022, there were 83,018 people enrolled in WIC in Colorado, according to the state. And on average for 2022 so far, there were 44,100 children ages 2 and under using the program each month, along with more than 17,000 people aged 20+.
In February, one of Abbott’s facilities in Michigan was shut down amid an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after suspected infections in two infants that used its products led to the infants' deaths, and upon suspicion of unsanitary conditions at the facility. Some of Abbott's products were also recalled.
The FDA announced it had agreed with Abbott on steps to reopen the facility pending court approval. It could still take two months for products made at the facility to arrive in stores, the company has said. The FDA said Thursday the factory could be back up and running next week, according to The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday also invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up domestic formula production. The Defense Department is working to fly pallets of formula out of other countries, The AP reported.
The House also on Wednesday approved a second formula-related bill, the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would send $28 million to the FDA to address the formula shortage and work on stopping future shortages. That measure passed in a 231-192 vote, in which only 12 Republicans voted in favor, with many saying the money was unnecessary beyond the other actions the administration is taking.
Boebert and Reps. Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck, Colorado’s other two Republican congressmen, all voted against that measure. Colorado's four Democratic members of Congress voted in favor of the bill, as well as the other.
When asked Thursday why Boebert voted against both measures – despite chastising the administration in a tweet about the formula shortage on May 12 – she claimed the Biden administration and Democrats created the issue. Abbott has maintained no evidence shows its formula and plant caused the death of the infants, but the FDA investigation is ongoing.
“Increasing salaries for FDA bureaucrats without addressing the production and supply chain issues isn’t going to solve the shortage,” Boebert said in a statement. “Democrats should be shamed for offering false hope messaging bills, and not real solutions for moms and dads trying to feed their children.”
She did not address the vote on the WIC-specific measure, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday. But she did tweet on Thursday that she believes the FDA caused the formula shortage “by unfairly closing the Abbott plant based on charges proven untrue.”
The other bill, the $28 million for the FDA, did not receive a Senate vote on Thursday, and its future there is not clear.