Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Fred Upton R-St Joseph
May 13, 2022
@MyKitchenTable: Friday May13, 2022
“To serve and to protect.”
NATIONAL POLICE WEEK
The absolute highlight of this week was greeting the family of fallen officer Ryan Proxmire and Sheriff Richard Fuller as they toured the Capitol as part of National Police Week. Read about this wonderful officer HERE.
We must always remember to thank and reflect on the sacrifices our law enforcement folks make to keep our communities safe.
Last August, we tragically lost Sgt. Ryan Proxmire after he was shot in a high-speed chase near Climax. Sgt. Proxmire was just 39 years old when he passed away. He is survived by his wife, four children, parents, sister, other family members, and many, many friends.
BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE
For weeks now, we have been watching the news on the baby formula shortage and the hardship it is imposing on families with infants. I am hoping (yes, I am an optimist always) that by the end of the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Abbott Nutrition will have resolved safety issues at their facility in Sturgis allowing them to start up again. In my discussions with both Abbot and the FDA, it will still take 6-8 weeks to actually see the formula back on the shelves once the green light is given. The Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee will be holding a hearing later this month to see what we can do to prevent such in the future. I intend to be at the Sturgis facility again before the month is out to offer my assistance in any way. I have heard story after story of infants needing the specialized formula in addition to regular formula that is essential. I would also note that late last year, the Women, infants and children’s program (WIC) switched to Abbott infant formula and thus this shortage is having a profound effect on low-income families. WIC is a federally funded assistance program I have always strongly supported. 85% of participants in the program use baby formula. When I spoke to officials at Abbott, they assured me they are acutely aware of this hardship and placing priority on getting supplies to affected families as soon as possible.
Southwest Michigan is home to America’s largest baby formula manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition. Earlier this year the Sturgis plant was shut down by the FDA after four infants who consumed their formula became ill and two of them sadly passed away from exposure to a common bacterium. After working closely with the FDA over the last few months, numerous studies and sample tests have revealed that the exposure likely did not come from consuming baby formula produced in Sturgis. You can read Abbott’s full statement HERE. Additionally, the FDA included a 483 letter (a standard form of recommendations and documentation) to the plant which the company responded to on April 8 and has worked to meet FDA standards. The FDA has yet to respond to the company which is necessary for Abbott Nutrition to restart production. The company estimates that the plant could be up and running within two weeks, pending FDA approval and formula could be on shelves six to eight weeks after that.
The multi-month halt of production has left shelves empty at the local and national level and will only continue to worsen until Abbott can resume production which is why I sent a letter to President Biden and the Commissioner of the FDA, Robert Califf, requesting long-overdue answers. The letter, led by me and my Energy and Commerce GOP colleagues, pinpoints the issues caused by the FDA’s delayed action. You can read more about how this shortage is affecting the community HERE and the full letter HERE.
When we passed the Cures legislation, we boosted the FDA’s budget by nearly $500M, enabling them to get cures and medical devices approved faster. After all, if we were going to demand faster cures, we would have to give them more resources to approve them for use. In my discussion with the FDA Commissioner, this has been a similar issue resources to inspect and ensure these production sites are safe. It will be an issue we may discuss at the Oversight Hearing later this month.
On Tuesday evening, I voted for, and the House passed H.R. 7691 by a vote of 368 to 57 (our Michigan delegation voted 13-1 in support with only Rep. Huizenga voting no), which provided for a critical aid package of $40 billion for Ukraine. Roughly half of this funding will be used to support humanitarian efforts such as emergency food assistance, and economic and diplomatic support. This comes as the Russian military blockade threatens to block millions of tons of grain from the world food supply. I’ve mentioned in previous KT’s the important role Ukraine fills in the food supply chain, in fact they are well known as the breadbasket of the world. You can read more about the blockade HERE and the role Ukraine plays in the global food market HERE.
The remainder of the Ukraine assistance funding will be used for defense technology. You can read my full statement HERE and see the vote total HERE.
On Wednesday, I had breakfast with Raj Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator and now president of the Rockefeller Foundation. He could not make it more clear the urgent need for humanitarian assistance and the potential cataclysmic impact on the world’s economy and impact on food supplies for Asia and Africa should this breadbasket be shutdown. Ukraine provides nearly 45% of the world’s wheat. In my almost daily interactions with Ukraine parliamentarians, they have convinced me that every day matters as they fight for us knowing that the cost to the free world will even be greater if we fail to stem Russia and Putin in this unprovoked invasion that continues to expand.
BREAKFAST WITH SCANDINAVIAN AMBASSADORS
On Wednesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and I met with several Scandinavian ambassadors to discuss Nordic-US cooperation on defense, trade, and how to best assist Ukraine and their nearby allies. As co-Chair of the bipartisan Denmark Caucus, I greatly appreciated hearing directly from our Nordic allies. We discussed how Putin has, in fact, strengthened NATO’s resolve by seeing additional members join as early as this weekend but also the commitment to boost defense spending to at least 2% of their GDP. Much of that defense spending will be on US-made equipment like F-35s and anti-sub aircraft. We also discussed the idea that a House Resolution supporting this weekend’s likely addition of Finland and Sweden would be an added signal to Russia that Putin has failed in his attempt to weaken NATO. I discussed such a Resolution with the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and there is a chance we could consider such as early as next week. You can read more about Finland’s request for NATO membership HERE.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION CANCELS CRITICAL ENERGY LEASE
I was quizzed earlier this week by WHTC-AM regarding cost of living increases, i.e.: inflation. I have held the strong belief from the start that these almost double-digit increases are directly attributed to the cost of energy. LNG prices have tripled in recent months, and we all watch the gasoline prices rise virtually every day. Their impact on getting goods to market and the family budget is well understood. In my view, President Biden’s move to cancel the Keystone pipeline on day #1 was a major signal to our energy suppliers that additional supplies were not welcome. Couple that with news this week that the Administration cancelled the oil and gas lease sale to drill in over 1 million acres in Alaska’s Cook Inlet as well as two lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico as they were pending before the Department of the Interior (DOI). Everyone is suffering from these historically high gas prices as American energy has become a scarce resource. These high prices are a direct consequence of outsourcing energy production – a move I have been staunchly against since the beginning and I have actively supported and introduced remedial measures to revitalize American energy production. You can read more about the effects of the Administration’s decision HERE.
CONGRESSIONAL ART COMPETITION
Every year my office participates in the Congressional Art Competition in partnership with the Kalamazoo Institute of Art (KIA). This year I selected Fiona Doyle, a senior at Portage Central High School, as the winner for Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District. Her beautiful watercolor painting, titled Cascada Gozalandid, will hang in the US Capitol for one year. Congratulations Fiona and thank you to all the artists who submitted their artwork in the 2022 Congressional Art Competition!
UPDATE ON CURES 2.0
On Wednesday, the Energy Subcommittee, of which I am top Republican, held a six-bill markup where I discussed the need to move ARPA-H and Cures 2.0 along to the House Floor for a vote. As you have heard me say a million times, this bill would establish an entity not unlike DARPA that would focus on very risky, but game-changing health research. Like DARPA, this entity would be focused on producing research on things that may be too uncertain for the private sector and would move at a faster pace than our current federal bureaucracy. Its successes would be absolutely groundbreaking. DARPA sprung inventions like GPS, Siri and the internet!
After a very prolonged week in session (votes took five hours on Wednesday night), I’ll be heading back to Michigan and then back to Washington on Monday. Tomorrow I’ll be participating in the Blossomtime Festival Grand Floral Parade in St. Joe. This is a wonderful tradition and I hope to see many of you there! Before the parade, I’ll be live from Saugatuck at 7:30AM with Mike Johnson on The Morning Grind which you can listen to HERE.
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