WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday proposed an emergency funding bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration $28 million to address a nationwide infant formula shortage.
The three-page measure is intended to provide the agency with the funds to increase staff in charge of inspecting formula before it is sent to grocery shelves, as well as money to prepare for future shortages, according to a summary. Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, called the legislation “the first step to help restock shelves and end this shortage.”
The legislation is expected to reach the House floor this week, as lawmakers scramble to respond to the pleas and frustrations of desperate families that have toiled to feed their children amid the shortage.
“The stories of mothers and fathers struggling to find formula and the images of empty store shelves are heartbreaking,” Ms. DeLauro said in a statement. “Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait — they need our support now. This bill takes important steps to restore supply in a safe and secure manner.”
Republicans, however, quickly said they would oppose the measure, criticizing it as ineffective and noting that it contained no instructions on how to spend the money.
“This bill is yet another case of creating the appearance of responding without actually doing anything, and I, for one, am frustrated,” Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said during a Rules Committee hearing. He added, “I have a hard time trusting these guys, given the mess we’re in now, without having a lot more specific language in the bill.”
Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said Democrats walked away from bipartisan talks and instead created a measure that “essentially constitutes a blank check for the F.D.A.”
“This bill won’t fix the problem,” she added.
Democratic leaders are also weighing legislation that would loosen the restrictions on the types of formula that can be purchased with benefits under the federal food assistance program for women and children, which accounts for about half the infant formula sold in the United States.
Granting emergency authority to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, would expand the types of formula recipients could purchase.
“Babies are crying — we need to get them food,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” She added, “We must do something as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible, and use caution, for these babies.”