House Democrats invite Snyder to testify on Flint

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has invited Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to testify about the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint at a Feb. 10 hearing.

Democratic Committee Co-Chairs Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Donna F. Edwards of Maryland, joined by Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, sent a letter Thursday asking Snyder to testify, noting that a congressional hearing held Wednesday didn’t include top state officials.

“To date, Congress has not heard testimony from you on the Flint water crisis,” the members wrote.

“Seeing how it was your administration’s decisions that led to this public health crisis, including Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law, we believe it is important to hear testimony from you on this matter.”

The committee is an arm of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and can’t force officials to testify. It includes leaders of the Democratic caucus whose responsibilities include assigning members to House committees and advising leaders on policy initiatives.

Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives and its committees, and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Arizona, decided not to call Snyder to testify during Wednesday’s hearing on Flint’s water crisis.

The Snyder administration started appointing emergency managers for Flint in 2011 because the city was underfunding its pension and running deficits. The emergency managers, supported by local officials, approved switching Flint off of the Detroit water system to a new regional authority.

The city began using the Flint River as a temporary source for drinking water in April 2014 while a new regional pipeline was built to Lake Huron.

The congressional members said they have also invited other expert witnesses to testify about how the public health crisis is affecting Flint’s families and children. The letter does not name the other witnesses.

“The committee hearing next week will be led solely by the facts to ensure accountability and that the city of Flint gets the support it needs,” they wrote. “As the state’s top elected official, Flint families and children deserve to hear directly from you.”

The hearing set for 2 p.m. Feb. 10 is entitled, “The Flint Water Crisis: Lessons for Protecting America’s Children.”

At her weekly news conference Thursday, Pelosi spoke about the upcoming hearing and urged unity among the parties “as we address a problem that is challenging our conscience and our policy – and that is what is happening in Flint, Michigan.”

“As many as 9,000 children under the age of 6 were drinking water and bathed in poisonous water for more than one year,” Pelosi said. “Many of them could face lifetime damage from the lead exposure. But, hopefully, we can save them from that the sooner we act.”

Also on Thursday, Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, requested that the panel’s Republican leaders schedule a hearing into how federal programs on education, juvenile justice and nutrition could be “expanded to help ameliorate the harm caused by the tragedy in Flint.”

“Committee Democrats would like to address this urgent matter, and a full committee hearing should be the first step,” Scott wrote to Chairman John Kline of Minnesota.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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