Cummings is ready to bring Snyder back before Congress over Flint

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, speaks during a hearing about the Flint water crisis in this file photo from March 15, 2016.

Washington — The incoming chairman of the House Oversight committee said he's likely to bring Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder back before Congress after Democrats take control of the House next year. 

"I'm not done with Flint," U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said Friday at the U.S. Capitol. 

Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, is set to take the helm of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, which will give him subpoena power and the authority to call hearings and reopen the panel's investigation into the Flint lead-contaminated water crisis. 

Snyder testified before the committee in March 2016, where Cummings and other committee Democrats called for his resignation.

Cummings later raised questions over whether the governor lied in his testimony about when he learned about the 2014-15 Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint area after hearing of contradictory testimony in an involuntary manslaughter preliminary exam by Snyder's urban issues adviser.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder “has no memory” of deleting any early emails relevant to the Flint water crisis, but his written responses to congressional committee questions “raise a whole new set of concerns about the accuracy” of his March 2016 testimony, Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland has said.

"It is very difficult for me to sleep at night with what happened and continues to happen to Flint — that wonderful municipality," Cummings told The Detroit News. 

"I know that much has been done with regard to Attorney General Bill Schuette, but there are still questions as to whether the governor was completely honest with us when he appeared before our committee. I would love to at some point — soon — see him come back to address the committee's concerns." 

Cummings said he's not sure yet when that could happen, but "we cannot let go."

"We must do everything in our power to make sure something like this never happens again, and we must also make sure the people of Flint are not forgotten," Cummings added. 

"The damage that has been done to many of Flint's children will have negative impacts on their lives until they die." 

Snyder's office declined to comment Friday. The Republican governor leaves office at the end of December and would be a private citizen if he were to be called to testify again. 

Schuette's special prosecutor has charged two Snyder health officials with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes.

Two state-appointed emergency managers also have been criminally charged, as have four current and former Department of Environmental Quality officials.

In his March 2016 testimony, Snyder accepted responsibility for not questioning the conclusions of state experts on Flint's water quality after the city shifted its water source from the Detroit area water system to the Flint River.

But the governor blamed DEQ officials for not telling him about lead-contaminated water, maintaining he did not know about elevated lead levels until shortly before he announced an action plan in October 2015.

He insisted that he did not learn about an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease until January 2016.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2016, to look into the circumstances surrounding high levels of lead found in many residents' tap water in Flint, Michigan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Currently the top Democrat on the House Oversight committee, Cummings last year asked Republicans leading the panel to subpoena Snyder to direct him to comply "in full" with the panel's bipartisan request for documents relating to the Flint crisis.

Cummings has been particularly interested in documents relating to when Snyder became aware of concerns relating to Flint's outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, a deadly form of pneumonia that killed 12 people and sickened dozens of others in Genesee County in 2014-15.

After a top aide contradicted Snyder's statements to the Oversight panel, committee leaders last year asked Snyder about his congressional testimony that he first learned about the Legionnaires' concerns in January 2016.

Urban affairs aide Harvey Hollins had testified that he informed the governor about the Legionnaires’ outbreak in December 2015 but didn't indicate what he specifically told Snyder about the Legionnaires’ cases.

Snyder stuck by his testimony, but that didn't satisfy Cummings and other Democrats.

Snyder's office has said it provided the Oversight committee with tens of thousands of pages of records, in addition to documents from the state's attorney general, health and environmental departments.

Former House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, closed the panel's Flint inquiry in December 2016 over the objections of Cummings, who called the move premature and "inconceivable" at the time. 

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, endorsed Cummings' plan to re-examine the Flint crisis, calling it a "man-made disaster caused by the state of Michigan and its emergency financial managers, appointed by Gov. Snyder, that failed to protect public health."

“Justice for Flint families comes in many forms, including the governor testifying under oath and his administration being held accountable for their actions that led to this crisis," Kildee said.

"Congressman Cummings has been a champion for Flint families, and I know he, as the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will continue the fight for justice for the people of Flint.”