HuffPost: As Biden Taps War Powers On Formula Shortage, Congress Takes Baby Steps

May 19, 2022 Media

Shortly after President Joe Biden announced he would use war powers to rush baby formula to store shelves, the House of Representatives voted on bills that would have little impact on the crisis.

Under one of the bills that Democrats pushed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening with help from 12 Republicans, the Food and Drug Administration would get $28 million to expand commercial baby formula supplies.

The House passed another bill on a broader bipartisan basis that would simply codify steps already taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure low-income mothers could use special food vouchers on any type of formula available in stores, instead of the usual single brand allowed by the program.

Maureen Tkacik, a senior fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank that opposes concentrated corporate power, questioned why Congress should have to pony up any funds for the FDA in the wake of severe violations by a massively profitable company.

“It boggles my mind that the FDA needs this emergency appropriation and they can’t just fine Abbott for that amount,” Tkacik said. “It is a $44 billion company that has spent $15 billion plus on stock buybacks and dividends over the past three and a half years.”

Dividends and stock repurchases enrich shareholders and are often criticized as a missed opportunity to invest in production, which would seem to be the case with Abbott. The FDA and the Justice Department said Abbott’s own records “documented a history of internal deterioration of the spray dryers” used to make powdered formula at its Michigan plant. FDA inspectors also found standing water and leaks throughout the facility.