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tv   House Speaker Pelosi Democrats Hold Briefing on Baby Formula Shortage  CSPAN  May 17, 2022 11:43pm-12:27am EDT

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>> you are in a lot of places to get political information, but only at c-span do you get it straight from the source. no matter where you are from or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiased, word for word. if that happens here or here or here or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. >> how speaker pelosi and other democrats announce legislation to provide $28 million to the food and drug administration to assist with the nationwide baby formula shortage. the bills address supply and safety issues associated with the shortage and provide waivers during emergencies and supply chain disruptions. this runs about 40 minutes.
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speaker pelosi: good afternoon, everyone. the babies. i usually say for the children, today, for the babies. i was telling our colleagues as they gathered on the way in we were driving behind a truck this morning that said "for the babies," and had nothing to do what we are dealing with now, just that is a centerpiece of all of this now. our babies, the nutrition they receive when they are very young has such an impact on their entire lives. the security the families feel about taking good care of them is what our country is about. today the house democrats have a
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new legislative agenda to ease the unconscionable baby formula shortage. there are two bills we have, we have worked very hard on a bill you will hear about that talks about the program. we are honored to have on our side of the aisle returning a former member of the house who we are very proud of the leadership and service, now chair of the agricultural committee of the senate, which has the jurisdiction to talk about that legislation that they have, as well as how it impacts the program. and on appropriations as the chair, rosa was chair of the
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almighty committee of appropriations. at one time she was chair of the committee that has largely nutrition and it. -- in it. she knows of this issue well, and we will talk about the appropriations bill. we will have hearings on this, and carolyn maloney may want to speak more to that. we will have a hearing in the oversight committee as well. none of this could be possible without the speed and efficiency of getting this legislation to the floor in very short order. the minute the leader heard about this issue and took it up with our chairs and chairs committee, we were on our way. thank you, mr. leader, for your knowledge of this issue, your
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appreciation for the urgency of it all, and giving us the opportunity to vote on this bill this week. it is my privilege to yield to the democratic leader of the house, mr. hoyer of maryland. rep. hoyer: i am pleased to be here with the speaker, thank you for going with this. i had a meeting with the chairs a week ago. rosa delauro meets with us, and she had done a lot of work on this. she brought the facts to our attention in the problems to our attention. i asked all the chairs with any jurisdiction to look at this. appropriations committee has a special role in terms of making the resources are there to address this problem.
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chairman malone, chairwoman maloney with the oversight committee and a number of other committees as the speaker has pointed out have jurisdiction to deal with these questions. there is nothing more critical to families than being able to feed their children. throughout history we have heard stories of parents living in poverty who will forgo every need of their own just to get a little food or milk for their young children to survive and hopefully thrive. the circumstances that led to the current infant formula shortage will need to be investigated. i know that will happen in the appropriations committee and other committees. right now congress must be focused on how to address the challenge and make sure all babies in america can get the nutrition they need in the first formidable months of life.
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i go to a grocery store in a little community in southern maryland, and i am amazed at the bareness of the shelves. i do not have any young children but my granddaughter has not infant children, she has two now, my youngest grandchild. i think to myself, a young monk with infant children looking at low shelves and having to go online to find someplace where she can be confident she has healthy food for her baby. that is why the house is moving forward to craft legislation led by chairwoman delauro, representative hayes, bobby scott, he is having a hearing next week. mothers are looking to us for help. we will not force them to face this crisis on their own. we are on their side.
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we will see who is on their side when we vote on this legislation. i hope my republican colleagues will be filled with what shakespeare called "the milk of human kindness." today, he may say "the milk of human health," or "the milk of human survival," so i hope my colleagues will join with us to move swiftly in addressing this pressing challenge. let's have this done together, and let's get it done fast. i want to thank my colleagues and the senator who is the chair of the ad committee in the senate for the work she is doing. i know she will be speaking while she is here is a partner, making sure that moms will be able to feed their infants. >> thank you.
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thank you very much. it is wonderful to be here with all of you. i have to thank the speaker and every leader that is up here for the focus, thus sense of urgency, the understanding of what is going on, i know that with a new baby you want to hold them close and not be frantically running to the grocery store or going online trying to find out whether or not you can get food for your baby. we understand that. we are laser focused. i am so pleased with congresswoman hayes and chairman scott to focus on the whip program, moms and babies who get food through the program, this is very important. we are working together on a bill, and we will be jointly on language and hopefully we can
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move this quickly in the house, where i know they will move quickly, but in the senate as well. when all of this came about, i very much appreciate the moment usda acted quickly. there are issues making sure that they know what is happening and when so they can move quickly. i appreciate that and what the president is doing. we want to make sure there is more flexibility. when a family goes to the grocery store and there is only one brand on the shelf right now, and if it is not an approved brand, there is a problem, but we are giving them the flexibility and we want to make that permanent that they can purchase what is available, safe and available. there is a number of flexibilities we are working on that are very important. we want to make sure when there is a shortage and a situation
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that it is all hands on deck at the federal government. all the partners are talking to each other, and all of them are moving quickly. i want to thank all of my colleagues who are here, and proud to be your partner. this is something that leader schumer cares deeply about. we met about this last night, and we are anxious to work with the house to make sure moms and babies are getting the healthy food safely that they need. thank you. speaker pelosi: the bill that is in the senate's counter to the bill in the house. bobby scott, chair of the committee and jahana hayes have taken the lead. we are proud of her leadership in this regard. rep. hayes: thank you, madam speaker. when recipients utilize formula at a rate double of people in
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the country, 50% of our babies rely on the program for milk, and that is disproportionate. i spent this morning in my office returning calls to people in my district who had reached out. they started a facebook group to figure out when and where they can buy formula. people are selling samples on the street. mothers are watering down formula. they are desperate. this is what i heard person after person after person i spoke to this morning. i am excited congress is taking action to help her most vulnerable families. over the past few weeks, speaker pelosi in every meeting we have been in has raised this issue of this crisis about formula shortage. i'm excited to work with leadership and introduce the access to baby formula act, which is a backup plan. there should have been a backup plan for when there was a recall, for families who receive
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and how they could access formula. this bill provides a waiver to authorize the governing bodies to address emergencies, disasters and supply chain disruptions, which will help us prepare for future events. i'm excited to be able to work with chairman scott on this issue. i chaired the nutrition subcommittee, but this falls under labor. what this bill shows is that democrats are aligned on this issue and working together not only to open up the supply chain to get milk and baby formula back on the shelves immediately, but long-term to make sure we have a plan in place so this never happens again. i can tell you that i understand completely what parents are going through now. i was a participant in the program. i know what it means to not be able to stretch out milk through the entire month, and that is what i heard this morning on the phones from these parents and
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grandparents i was talking to. what i would like to tell them as their words are not falling on deaf ears. we see them and hear them, and we are working hard in congress to address this rising concern. with everything going on right now, the last thing a family should have to worry about is feeding their children. i'm very excited we are bringing this legislation to the floor of the house, and we will vote on it and move it to the senate to get much-needed relief to these parents and their children. thank you. speaker pelosi: thank you very much for bringing your personal experience. i was thinking of those who have gone before us who established the program. women, infants and children. the long view of what we need for our children. it is such an important initiative. again, that falls under the labor committee.
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congresswoman delauro is tracking these issues. she is going to give us the full picture of where we will go with the money, and what we have to do. i'm very proud of our president who said we must deal with this quickly but safely. and cautiously. that is what the chairwoman is doing. rep. delauro: thank you madam speaker, thank you for our gathering today and for all of the work done by my colleagues. it is a serious issue and in a critically important issue. i would like to give a shout out to to the chair of the act appropriations committee, chairman bishop engaged in this effort as well. it is a serious problem in this country. parents are struggling. people live paycheck-to-paycheck. they are scrambling to find a formula to feed their babies. the wealthiest nation in the
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world. there are two parts to the infant formula shortage. safety and supply. we should not have to -- parents should not have to choose between these things. we should not be creating what is a false dichotomy. the bill i introduced this morning and believe he addresses the shortage. the here and now. by quickly trying to get product on the shelf and help to prevent it from not happening again. the shortage was caused in large part by corporate greed and consolidation. there are only four manufacturers of infant formula in the united states. only four. when one piece is pulled out of the equation, 1.2 million babies , they have a contract for that, when you pull that out, you see
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the shortage on the shelves. in this case, it was abbott nutrition put profits over people, and due to a disgraceful lack of oversight, it is costing parents and caregivers to struggle to feed their kids. the images, empty shelves, desperate parents -- heartbreaking. the legislation provides $28 million in new funding for the fda. it will provide fda urgently needed resources to address this shortage, to prevent fraudulent products from entering into the marketplace. to help acquire better data on the situation in the marketplace, and to prevent the shortages from happening again. we strengthen their workforce, focus on formula issues and increase fda inspections. in response to a question i asked the fda, and how they would be able to review infant
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formula submissions, i was told that they have only nine people to do this. this was coming from domestic manufacturers, foreign manufacturers to be to be able to look to see if this is a quality project, if it meets our standards. and what this would also allow the fda to do with the resources is to look at fda facilities around the world. there are seven in europe, two in mexico. there may be others that may come online. what happens is that we can't be in touch -- can be in touch and we can get that product from an fda approved source. making sure that we have a standard of which to compare the product with.
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so the fda plays such a critical role in ensuring formula provides the full nutritional needs of infants and is manufactured in the safest way possible. today we are making sure the lack of funding is not a barrier to getting safe formula to parents and babies. meeting the need today is necessary. no baby goes hungry. no parent has to struggle to find the food to feed their child and the efforts for the future will help ensure we are not forced to go back and re-create this desperate situation. it's not enough. as the speaker pointed out, people are doing different things. we are talking about energy and commerce, doing hearings, but we have to address and have people who are accountable. you understand that at least two babies died.
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four more hospitalized. i weise -- recently released a whistleblower report that highlighted a damming list of allegations of wrongdoing at the abbott factory producing the formula. this company has lied, cut corners, falsified records to cover up missed doings at the sake of infant health. that is plain wrong. the appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on thursday with the fda commissioner. we have a hearing the following week with experts and stakeholders, and ig report has been ordered that takes a while, as you know. but to look at accountability. there will be additional legislation which provides authority to the fda and will look at the opportunity for the defense production act.
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the work is not done. we will continue to work hard and get to the long-term root causes so that this does not happen again. with that, i'm pleased to introduce the chair of the energy and commerce committee, frank pallone. >> thank you, madam speaker and everyone who has been involved with this not only in the last few weeks, but long-term. i want to develop a little bit what rosa said about the safety aspect of this as well as the supply aspect because a lot of attention is focused on the supply and of course the shortage particularly with regard to abbott and their products being recalled. as mentioned by my colleague, we have to look at this in both ways. i was the author of the food safety act years ago. some people came up to me in the last few days and said well, if they hadn't recalled the formula, then we would not be in
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this mess today. i was like, are you kidding me? babies died. kids got sick. you can't look at it that way and say we shouldn't do a recall. we have been very careful to say there are problems here and if formula is contaminated, then it shouldn't be sold. that is what our bid was doing. -- abbott was doing the answers to look at both of these. make sure we have the supply and get rid of the shortage now. in terms of the authorizing committee and in energy and commerce, what needs to be done in the future to make sure this crisis doesn't happen again? that involves not only supply, but also making sure the way the fda goes about determining what is recalled and contaminated is done often enough and testing is done often enough and quickly enough. one of the things we have been looking at is right now, we do not have an immediate or quick
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way of finding out whether there is a shortage. one of the things we may very well do is legislation that says that they have to notify us about what kind of supply they have. they have to notify the fda. and also that if we find this contamination that this is as quickly figured out how to correct it so the supply is back on the market again. these are the problems we are facing. just so you know, the hearing is next wednesday. we have the fda commissioner, the food policy and response deputy commissioner and the center for food safety director will be at next week's hearings. we have the three companies, abbott, gerber, and senior people within those organizations, those are the companies that produce about 80% of the supply. i wanted to mention that
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tomorrow, the committee has a full committee markup on the fda user fees and the way we pay for and authorize drugs. one of the provisions in that package makes it easier for the fda to recruit and retain holly -- highly qualified staff including areas overseas where we need inspection. i believe your appropriation bill provides for more trap -- staff and training as well. i want to thank all of my colleagues for everything we are doing to deal with this immediately and make sure this does not happen again. thank you, madam speaker. rep. pelosi: thank you very much. when you mentioned the user fees and everything at the fda, it is important to see what the appetite is for the food part of the food and drug administration. if we could get user fees on the food side, we could have a much bigger budget for staffing on
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the food side of the food and drug administration. also, the fda has no power to recall. we say recall but it really is a different issue. the food and drug administration can say something is wrong with it and then the public reaction to it is effectively the company would perhaps recall. but there is no power. we have it in the bbb and hopes we could pass it when we had not been able to get it over time and other legislation that requires from bipartisan vote. in terms of recall, when we use that term, it is not the power of recall. it is the persuasion of company recalling voluntarily. so we have a stronger hand to play here if we would be willing to do so.
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there's also some attitude in the country that there is plenty of supply, it is just not all in the right places, there must be a computer program that tells us where that is, if that is so, let's get that moving this minute into the mouths of babies. we fight all the time, not to take food out of the mouths of babies as some initiatives might result in. as a mother of five, grandmother of nine, long time for me, i can still hear a baby cry when it is hungry. parents should not have to hear a baby cry without being able to fulfill the need, to anticipate the need. again, it must be safe. we have to be cautious in how we proceed. we have to do this as quickly and safely as possible.
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with that, we are pleased to take any questions. >> we heard you talk a little bit about, it seems it is going to the fda. is there world in which the fda can put that money to companies that will actually -- rep. pelosi: no. what this does is divide this up. infant formula supply chain monitoring and assessment for $1.5 million. laboratory methods developments, $3 million at the office of regulatory officials -- affairs. social media data, so we can track stuff online, and at $500,000. then it is infant formula and staffing. $23 million. the speaker spoke about, if we
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are going to bring more companies online that are fda approved, either domestically or internationally, those facilities have to be inspected. fda does not have the adequate inspection force to be able to do that and do that in a timely way. the other piece, as i mentioned earlier, you will look at companies who want to try to provide us with a product who may not be fda approved. that is a submission. nine people. that's it. at the crux of this is providing infrastructure if you will, in order to do what needs to get done and that is about as quickly as possible. how we get product in and get it on the shelves and that is what this is about.
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it is supply chain, it is data, looking at fraud. you could have anybody coming forward and saying they do this and they do that and so forth unless we have a standard to judge them by and unless we can inspect and look at all of this, we take a very big risk. and today, the speaker spoke about mothers, parents today saying, ok, go to a pediatrician , saying what should i do? the pediatrician may even say take a chance because it may be ok. but think about being a mother. you need to feed your baby. and then you are scared that if what you feed your baby is going to cause harm. what we want to do is provide resources as quickly as we possibly can, get this done, then take up the issue of accountability. i spoke of accountability at the fda as well because they dragged their feet for several months before there was a recall.
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the speaker is right, we don't have power of recall, it is the company who determines whether or not they recall the product. >> they said they had worked on this since february, but not acting until months later. my question is, if the 28 -- >> rep. delauro: who said that? >> the white house. my question is, could congress have helped prevent the shortage? >> the biden administration has taken action since february. they provided more flexibility for the program, they worked with manufacturing and increase production and encouraged safe formula but the bottom line, we feel now more needs to be done and that's why we are talking about the other bill with wic,
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and further are threatening -- arthur -- authorizing down the line. i'm not trying to be difficult. this is complex. one of the things that bothers me is i found out that people are now ordering, i guess through the mail, formula from canada and other countries, and in some cases, that is the abbott stuff that was already taken off the market here. this is an issue where it is not just a question of supply, but safe supply and that is part of the problem. to make sure this stuff is not being used and that what we are using now is safe. >> i hear your question. usda moved very quickly as he heard senator stabenow speak about. why you have the education and labor piece of labor is to give
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wic and the usda more power. in fact, secretary vilsack does not deal with moving the pieces around. he has provided flexibility to a beneficiary so they can more easily get access to the product. what we are trying to do is provide him with more authority, and he did that. quite honestly, the first stories that came out, this is before i even knew of a whistleblower's report, i called for an inspector general investigation of a delay from last october until they recall in february by the fda. that will take a while. but in the meantime, the issue and the crisis is now. how do we, in short order, provide them with what they need in terms of the fda, to bring a
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product back? we will look at other pieces about strengthening authority and holding feet to the fire. we are going to investigate abbott and the trips should fall where they may. people have to be accountable whether at fda or abbott. >> if i just may say, seeing the problem is very important, but understanding it very carefully is, too. some babies need a very special kind of formula. only one manufacturer makes that. it came contaminated. what is the nature of this? what is it that we have to address? that was one part of it. when madam chair referenced the baby who died, they needed the special formula and have a special category and that was contaminated.
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and that is sinful, but it was. that is one thing they will look at. and of course the fungibility of this when everybody runs to the next category. then you have the shortage. and this is a supply chain issue , the one that was rearing its head in many ways. but when it comes to babies, it is the here and now in the moment. i think when all of this is done , i'm not associating my colleagues with what i'm saying right now, i'm just saying it myself, there might need to be indictment. another question? >> [inaudible] >> i can't and the server --
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answer for what the senate may do, but $20 million is a lot of money. anybody who says that is too much money to spend for the safety and well-being of babies, i just don't agree with, period. and this was a very crafted number. it wasn't the most we can spend, it was the most effective. >> understand in the legislation, there is a provision that says the fda has to report to the house appropriations and senate appropriations committee every week on the utilization of the funding so that we know what is happening and that they are accountable for the use of that fund. >> one more question. >> why is it not on the schedule until thursday? >> we have to have -- right now
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the committee has the workforce development legislation on the floor of the house. it is important west. we went to rules today to bring the wic bill to the floor and of course it will have to go through this -- the senate as well. my hope and understanding is the senate will be dealing with the ukraine legislation in the next couple of days. >> i have a question about timing. if you had said that we will start to see improvements on the shelves in the next couple months, how much do you think 28 million supplementals could yield results? >> let me address that this way. i read the guidance from the fda . while i believe it is a good step in trying to move forward, i am disappointed in this that
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we will look at both foreign and domestic facilities that are not fda approved. i believe we ought to be doing this with fda approved facilities and it will be a much quicker process. if they are not fda approved, you have to do the investigation, you have to visit, you have to do all of those things. if you could go and you have seven overseas facilities at the moment, they are in france, in germany, in the netherlands, in ireland, and denmark. there are several where my view is we can go, it is fda approved, that product can be immediately brought back to the u.s. and in a much more timely way. i agree with you. we cannot wait two months. >> [inaudible] >> yes. it would do that.
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the bill also would allow for the ability to get the product from an fda already approved facility. we have facilities that have passed inspections. let's go there first and then let's get a product back and get it on the shelves as quickly as we can. >> one more question. if your bill is passed, how quickly do you think americans -- [inaudible] >> my hope is, we have to pass in the house, which we will do, we have to see about the senate. as quickly as that crosses, then i would not understand why anyone would not want to move as quickly as we can giving people the wherewithal to get the product to bring it back here. because this is not a democratic issue or republican issue. this is about the risk and life of babies in this country. >> if i just may say, there are a couple things happening. one is that we want to know, as
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has been told to us, if there is product in our country, it is just a question of where it is and where it needs to be taken to. we said let's use the vaccine, shall we say, model of transferring to localities if that is possible. the fda is not a transportation agency. nor is the department of agriculture, but if we are looking into it, maybe there are private sector facilities that can move that. what is that? how much is that? could be 80%. if so, we would have stuff on the shelves, but we don't know and that's what we are finding out. remember during covid, it was almost impossible for the fda to travel to foreign countries to inspect plants. that has been a setback.
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i'm not just talking about baby formula. i'm talking about other forces of fda approved products that would come to the united states. they were not able to travel or able to get into these plants because of covid. that is a setback. so we want it as soon as possible. right now. why isn't it, and how much can we get safely? the president keeps saying safely. it australia approved or not? >> no. >> they have supply, we have to see if they are approved. so it is not just a question of let's buy it and bring it in. safety is very important. our having a bill on wednesday is not holding anything up but it still has to pass the senate, which is occupied happily now -- not happily, but, thank god on
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ukraine right now, so they can do that tomorrow and then beyond their schedules shortly thereafter. we would hope that in terms of the wic bill, congresswoman jahana hayes and madame chair stab and i was bill, -- reppo representative stab enow's bill, that would be represented. we have to go now. thank you. >> c-span brings you an unfiltered view of government. our newsletter word for word recaps the day for you from the halls of congress to daily press reef things, to remarks from the president.
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