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This week: House targets baby food shortage, Senate looks to move Ukraine aid

Baby formula is displayed on the shelves of a grocery store in Carmel, Ind., Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The House will take up legislation this week to address the nationwide baby formula shortage, as Republicans hammer the Biden administration over the issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday said the House will take up a pair of bills this week to tackle the shortages, which have left parents and guardians scrambling to find food for their infants.

On the other side of the Capitol, senators will work to push through a nearly $40 billion Ukraine funding package, delayed last week after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked a vote on a bipartisan deal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have set May 19 as the day the funding is needed if the U.S. is “to continue our security assistance at the current pace.”

On Tuesday, both chambers are scheduled to welcome Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to the Capitol, where he will attend a joint meeting.

And the subpoenas sent last week to five sitting lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), by the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol continue to reverberate throughout Washington, as the panel awaits responses.

Baby formula

Pelosi announced in a letter to colleagues on Friday that the House will take up a bill to grant emergency authority to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — referred to as the WIC program.

The program provides states with federal grants to go toward supplemental food and nutrition education for low-income women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as postpartum women who are not breastfeeding, according to the Food and Nutrition Service.

Pelosi said giving the program emergency authority will help tackle the supply chain snafus and recalls impacting the baby formula industry, and allow the federal government to relax some non-safety regulations.

“Ensuring that every precious baby has the nutrition that he or she needs is a matter of the baby’s life and development,” she wrote in her letter.

“While it is essential that we ensure that this issue never happens again, right now the babies are crying and the babies are hungry – so we must take urgent action to protect their health and well-being,” she added.

The baby formula shortage is continuing, according to an analysis by retail tracking company Datasembly, which found that as of the week starting April 24, the out-of-stock percentage for the product reached 40 percent.

Republicans have seized on the scarcity, slamming the Biden administration for the bare shelves and accusing congressional Democrats of putting the shortage on the back burner.

In addition to a bill granting the WIC program emergency authority, the House is also slated to work on an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation that, according to Pelosi, will “immediately address the infant formula shortage.”

The Speaker said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is planning to bring the supplemental spending to the floor.

Jan. 6 subpoenas

The Jan. 6 select committee sent shock waves throughout Washington on Thursday when it issued subpoenas to McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers requesting testimony as part of its investigation into the deadly riot in 2021 after they refused to appear voluntarily.

Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (Ala.) also received subpoenas.

While the requests for testimony have been out for days now, none of the five lawmakers have signaled how they plan to proceed with the unprecedented ask.

Members of the Jan. 6 panel are holding out hope that the lawmakers will comply with the investigative demand — despite Republicans knocking the committee as corrupt — though they also say they are prepared to utilize a menu of enforcement options, including criminal contempt, if the lawmakers stonewall the request.

“Members of Congress are citizens of the United States, so it would be the same options that are available to us generally,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Jan. 6 panel, told reporters on Friday.

He said the committee has “all of the options that would be available to us, or someone like Steve Bannon or Mark Meadows” — referring to the two former Trump administration officials the committee has already held in criminal contempt — “and then additional options because they’re members of Congress.”

Ukraine aid

Senators this week will look to pass the House-approved $39.8 billion Ukraine funding package after Paul delayed proceedings last week.

Paul refused to get on board with a deal Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed last week that would have teed up a Thursday vote on the funding.

Paul wanted to add language to the bill that would have increased the role of an Afghanistan inspector general to also oversee the Ukraine funds, and rejected a proposal from Schumer and McConnell to vote on it as a separate amendment.

By delaying the passage of the Ukraine bill, Paul also put the chamber at risk of missing a deadline Austin and Blinken set for the funding last week.

In a letter to House and Senate leadership, the top administration officials asked Congress to pass the supplemental by May 19 if the U.S. plans to “continue our security assistance at the current pace.”

Despite Paul’s delay, however, McConnell told reporters during a press call on Sunday that he thinks the Senate will advance a motion to proceed with the aid package on Monday, then approve the supplemental on Wednesday.

The House approved the funding in a 368-57 vote last week. Asked about the large number of GOP “no” votes, McConnell said “I think it’s important for the United States to help, important for the free world to help, important for the Ukrainians to win, and hopefully not many members of my party will choose to politicize this issue.”

Greek Prime Minister

House and Senate lawmakers are slated to welcome Mitsotakis to the Capitol on Tuesday, after Pelosi last month invited him to address a joint meeting of Congress.

The Speaker in a letter said, “The unshakable bond between the United States and Greece is firmly rooted in our shared history and values.”

“As our world faces a pivotal moment in the fight between the forces of democracy and autocracy, the transatlantic alliance remains vital to the future of freedom in the world,” she wrote. “The Congress and our Country look forward to hearing your message of democratic values as we continue to strengthen our partnership, bolster security and freedom worldwide, and build a brighter future for our children.”

Pelosi noted that the visit will mark a belated commemoration of the Greek bicentennial after it was delayed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

House leaders on Sunday said lawmakers are expected to be seated on the House floor no later than 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday for the joint meeting with Mitsotakis.

The Greek prime minister is scheduled to meet with President Biden on Monday.

Mitsotakis’s visit to the U.S. comes on the heels of Greece extending its bilateral military agreement with the U.S. for five years, according to The Associated Press. The accord will allow the U.S. military to continue accessing three bases in mainland Greece.

Tags Antony Blinken Jamie Raskin Kevin McCarthy Kyriakos Mitsotakis Lloyd Austin Nancy Pelosi Rand Paul
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