Congressional Dems push for Flint aid vote

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Democrats in the U.S. House are pushing Republicans in the GOP-led chamber to allow a vote on legislation that would spend $765 million to address Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis before Congress goes on its traditional summer recess in August.

The lawmakers said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the legislation would “provide the emergency and long-term resources needed for Flint while sharing responsibility with the state of Michigan.”

The legislation, which was filed by Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, includes $765 million worth of funding for infrastructure repairs, expanded health care and education access, economic development and health monitoring in Flint, according to supporters of the bill. Kildee’s office has said the relief package would reach $1.5 billion if is matched by Michigan’s state government, which the proposed legislation calls for.

The measure, known as the Families of Flint Act, is being co-sponsored by 171 other Democrats, but it has not yet been brought up for a vote of the full House. Co-sponsors include Michigan’s other four Democratic House members — U.S. Reps. Sander Levin of Royal Oak, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and John Conyers of Detroit.

“The people of Flint continue to lack access to safe drinking water and need emergency funding to respond and recover to this health emergency affecting 100,000 Americans,” Kildee and the other Democratic lawmakers wrote to Ryan. “While nothing can be done to reverse lead’s effects on the body, Congress can act to provide resources to Flint and minimize lead’s impact on the victims. Each day that passes that we fail to take action is a day that the children of Flint cannot get back.”

Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to attach the Flint aid package to other spending measures that have been approved this year. A separate $220 million Flint-inspired aid package cleared a key U.S. Senate committee in April but has not been put up for a floor vote.

The Michigan Legislature has approved more than $236 million in state aid for Flint since October, when the scope of the water contamination crisis began to come to light, including $165 million in a current and upcoming fiscal year budget bill signed last month by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Kildee was one of three U.S. lawmakers who met with Flint families in Washington this week as they push for the establishment of a compensation fund for victims of the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

He said in the letter with his Democratic colleagues in the House that other pieces of legislation have been prioritized ahead of the Flint assistance package.

“In recent months, this Congress has brought forth legislation regarding other crises including the Puerto Rican debt crisis, the Zika virus and the opioid addiction epidemic, but has failed to bring up legislation to send resources to Flint to deal with the water crisis,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

“The House of Representatives must act immediately to provide the necessary help to Flint and respond to the water crisis as it has in the past for other Americans in crisis.”

Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing