These Nine Republicans Hate Democrats More Than They Love Babies (or Freedom or Democracy or Anything Else)

·4 min read
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

A veritable murderers’ row of nine MAGA members voted on Wednesday against The Access to Baby Formula Act. According to CNN, the act is “aimed at ensuring that families in need can continue to buy baby formula with WIC benefits during a public health emergency or supply chain issues such as a product recall.”

Who would oppose such a thing? The usual suspects, that’s who. Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Clay Higgins, Thomas Massie, and Chip Roy.

Under normal conditions, voting against such a bill would be controversial enough. It reinforces the negative stereotype of conservatives being pro-life only in the womb and not caring about babies after they are born. It plays into the hands of abortion supporters arguing that access to abortion is important for poor or struggling moms who can’t afford another mouth to feed.

Coming on the heels of the leak about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (but before the decision has officially been handed down), this seems like an obvious trap that pro-lifers might want to avoid. Not for the MAGA Nine.

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To complicate matters, several of the Republicans who opposed The Access to Baby Formula Act invoked the baby formula shortage as a reason we shouldn’t be spending money to help Ukraine fight off an invading Russia.

“Last night, this House approved $40 billion for Ukraine as American families go without baby formula," Gaetz said last week.

“Biden is more concerned with sending billions of $ to Ukraine than he is about baby formula shortages here in the United States,” tweeted Tom Massie.

Greene likewise cited the shortage of baby formula when explaining her vote against funding for Ukraine.

To most observers, the message was clear: America should be spending money on our citizens—not on Ukraine. Or, as Rep. Lauren Boebert put it in a tweet about supporting Ukraine: “AMERICA FIRST.”

But when they had a chance to do something about the formula shortage for poor kids, the MAGA Nine suddenly changed their minds.

Of course, the devil’s always in the details. Slapping a sympathetic name on a bill does not make it a good one. Still, if this bill was so bad, why did only nine Republicans vote against it?

According to the House Education and Labor Committee, The Access to Baby Formula Act grants the Agricultural Department the “authority to waive certain requirements so that vulnerable families can continue purchasing safe infant formula with their WIC (Women, Infants and Children) benefits during extenuating circumstances, such as a public health emergency or supply chain disruption.” Their fact sheet goes on to note that, “About half of infant formula sold nationwide is purchased with WIC benefits, which restricts the types of formulas that recipients can buy.”

That’s a lot of policy jargon to take in, but as this Fox 8 news report out of Cleveland bottom lines it: Right now, WIC “limits mothers to certain brands, different amounts, even stores.” So poor women who rely on WIC have a lot fewer options than everyone else (and they can’t use WIC to purchase formula online).

So how can anyone oppose this act? For starters, you can always say you’re for doing something about the baby formula shortage—just not this. And, to be sure, this is not a solution to the formula crisis, just a stopgap move to save lives. Still, it seems like the kind of reform that should have been introduced a long time ago and should exist in perpetuity. I can certainly understand why we do not want SNAP recipients to spend that money on booze and cigarettes. But what’s the moral hazard in letting poor moms buy baby formula from a certain brand or a store?

This brings us to Gaetz’s explanation for opposing the bill: “It will allow WIC to utilize a far greater portion of the baby formula market, crowding out many hard-working American families,” he tweeted.

Hard-working? Crowding out?

To be clear, Gaetz is saying that he thinks people with money should have an easier time obtaining formula for their babies than poor moms who need assistance. We’re not talking about preferential access to pony rides here, but whether a baby has access to formula.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene blamed WIC for making it harder for parents to find formula, saying “If you’re on WIC, you’re allowed to buy as much baby formula as you want to… but if you’re not on WIC, you’re limited to how many cans of baby formula you’re allowed to buy.”

The truth is that some stores are limiting purchases (to prevent people from hoarding or profiteering/scalping), but WIC recipients are already verified to have an infant, and are already limited to their voucher amount).

This feels to me like she’s reverse-engineering an excuse to defend the indefensible.

In one fell swoop, the MAGA Nine have undermined the last two Republican messaging themes. This isn’t America First. And it sure as hell ain’t Compassionate Conservatism. It’s crudity and cruelty as a platform.

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