Senators seek delay to review Flint bill

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A few U.S. senators want a delay to review the $220 million Flint-inspired bill, pushing a potential vote on the measure into next week.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmed the holds Thursday but said they were “soft” and wouldn’t necessarily block the measure from a vote.

“Sen. (Jim) Inhofe is genuinely trying to work through concerns and get this moving again,” the spokeswoman said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has reviewed the bill and won’t block it, a spokesman said.

The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, as well as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who chairs the committee, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Their agreement would allow the stalled bipartisan energy bill to advance, while the Flint-related measure would be considered as stand-alone legislation.

The measure would include $100 million for subsidized loans for water infrastructure improvements through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for any state that receives a federal emergency declaration due to a public health threat from lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water supply system. Flint is the only community that currently fits that definition.

Another $70 million in the legislation would be applied toward financing costs for up to $700 million in secured loans for water infrastructure across the country through the WIFIA Fund.

The bill also would require the EPA to alert the public of high lead levels in drinking water when a state agency fails to do so for more than 15 days. A nearly unanimous House approved a similar EPA-notification bill this month.

On Twitter, Stabenow posted Thursday that she’s “hearing good things, adding Republican support” and “hoping to see votes next week.”

“Working very hard with Sen. Inhofe and other Republicans to clear up any issues on the Flint deal. Need a strong vote to #StandWithFlint,” she wrote.

A Peters spokeswoman on Thursday said he is continuing to work with GOP colleagues to build support for the compromise legislation to help communities with aging infrastructure.

“He is pleased with the support the bill has received so far and hopeful the Senate will reach an agreement to vote next week," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor Thursday that Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, among others, were continuing to work “diligently on a way to wrap up the energy bill and deal with the Flint issue.”

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