Washington — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has declined an invitation to testify before a committee of congressional Democrats this week about the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint.
“He declined to testify on Wednesday, as he will be presenting his fiscal year 2017 budget recommendation in Lansing,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.
Wednesday’s budget presentation had been planned for at least a month and is expected to include the Republican governor’s long-term recovery plan for Flint’s contaminated water crisis. The governor is working with a $28 million supplemental spending package of short-term aid for Flint and has said his budget plan would include more steps for the Genesee County city.
The U.S. House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which includes Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, had sent a letter last week calling Snyder to testify, noting that a House Oversight hearing held last Wednesday didn’t include top state officials.
“Gov. Snyder’s refusal to show up and testify is deeply disappointing,” Kildee said in a statement Monday. “His administration’s policies led to this man-made crisis, and he needs to answer questions so that the whole truth can be found.”
The Democratic committee is an arm of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. It includes leaders of the Democratic caucus whose responsibilities include assigning members to House committees and advising leaders on policy initiatives.
The committee does not have the power to subpoena witnesses, unlike the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which issued one to former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.
When Earley’s attorney declined it because it was delivered late last Tuesday, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said U.S. marshals would “hunt down” Earley to serve it. Earley’s attorney has since said Earley wants to testify.
Also invited to testify at the 2 p.m. Wednesday hearing: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Hurley Medical Center pediatrician who last fall detected high levels of lead in Flint kids; Yanna Lambrinidou, president of Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives; Bilal Kareem Tawwab, superintendent of Flint Community Schools; and Eric Scorsone, associate professor and founding director of the Michigan State University Extension Center for State and Local Government Policy.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, said Friday it intends to hold a March hearing on the Flint health emergency.
Chaffetz’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on Flint last week where lawmakers grilled the chief of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and an official with the Environmental Protection Agency for three hours.
Chaffetz did not call Snyder to testify at the hearing, despite requests by Democrats on and off the Oversight panel.