WASHINGTON, D.C. - A combination of pandemic related labor shortages, supply chain issues and a powdered formula recall by Abbott Nutrition has led to a national infant formula shortage. The House passed two separate bills to address this shortage. They overwhelmingly approved legislation that would grant the federal government emergency authority to expand the types of formula that can be purchased with WIC benefits. The second bill was mainly voted along party lines; it would appropriate 28-million in emergency funding to respond to the scarcity of baby formula. In the meantime, President Biden is invoking defense powers to boost formula supply. 

“The Defense Production Act gives the government the ability to require suppliers to direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good,” said President Joe Biden. “I’m also announcing Operation Fly Formula. That’s to be able to speed up the import of infant formula and start getting more formula in stores as soon as possible. I’ve directed the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to send aircraft planes overseas to pick up infant formula that meets US health and safety standards, so we can get it onto store shelves faster.” 

Senator Pat Toomey (R- PA) released this statement following Biden’s announcement: 

“First, it seems the administration has no use for the word ‘defense’ in Defense Production Act. Beyond misusing the DPA statute every time there’s a temporary product shortage, today’s action masks the costly protectionist and welfare policies that created this problem in the first place. To fix the shortage, the administration and Congress should cut the hefty import taxes on baby formula and amend the USMCA so the U.S. isn’t limited in how much formula we can import from Canada. We should also reform the aspects of the WIC program that have reduced competition in the infant formula market and made the country more vulnerable to supply disruptions.” 

The Senate is expected to move forward quickly on both bills but it’s unclear how senators will vote on the bill that appropriates 28-million in emergency funding. Some claim that congress is just throwing money at the problem, rather than fixing it.