Hillary Clinton plans Sunday visit to Flint

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will leave the New Hampshire campaign trail Sunday to visit Flint and highlight the water-tainted city’s need for $600 million in federal funding.

Clinton will use her first visit to Flint since the city’s lead-contaminated water started making national headlines last month to lobby for the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to approve Democrats’ $600 million aid for Flint’s recovery needs, a campaign aide said.

“I will be in Flint at the mayor’s invitation on Sunday to get a in-depth briefing about what is and is not happening,” Clinton said Thursday during a presidential debate with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Durham, New Hampshire. “This is an emergency.”

After narrowly winning the Iowa caucuses Monday, Clinton has been trying to nibble away at Sanders’ large polling lead ahead of the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday.

Clinton has honed in on Flint’s lead contaminated water for the past month, criticizing the role Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration played in overseeing Flint when the city switched water sources to save money.

Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality has admitted it failed to require Flint to treat its river water with corrosion control chemicals.

If elected president, Clinton said the federal government would provide health care and educational services to Flint residents harmed by lead-tainted water and “bill the state of Michigan.”

“I absolutely believe that what is being done is not sufficient,” Clinton said. “We need to be absolutely clear about everything that should be done from today to tomorrow into the future to try to remedy the terrible burden that the people of Flint are bearing...”

Clinton has said the state should have taken action on Flint’s corrosive water problems in fall 2014 when General Motors Co. said it would no longer use city water at its Flint engine plant because it was rusting engine parts.

During the debate Thursday night on MSNBC, Sanders renewed his call for Snyder to resign from office.

“I don’t go around asking for governor’s resignations every day. In fact, I don’t think I never have in my life,” Sanders said. “But I did ask for the resignation of Gov. Snyder because his irresponsibility was so outrageous. What we are talking about is children being poisoned. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Snyder used his Jan. 19 State of the State address to apologize to Flint residents for his administration’s failings. He also has criticized DEQ employees who didn’t insist on treating with control additives the corrosive Flint River water that caused lead in old pipes to leach into the city’s drinking water.

Sanders also stole a line from Clinton’s previous criticism of the Snyder administration’s slow response to complaints about Flint’s foul-tasting water that began in April 2014 when the city switched from Detroit’s water system to its river water.

“Last point on this, and I suspect the secretary agrees: One wonders if this were a white suburban community, what kind of a response there would have been,” Sanders said.

During their Jan. 17 debate, Clinton said Snyder would have responded sooner “if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has endorsed Clinton over Sanders.

Clinton still plans to campaign Sunday in New Hampshire, the campaign aide said.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Clinton is politicizing the Flint crisis.

“Given all of the extra security measures and resources necessary to accommodate a presidential candidate with a Secret Service detail, Clinton’s visit will be a strain on much-needed resources for Flint,” McDaniel said in a Thursday statement. “The political games involving Flint need to stop, and the focus needs to be on providing resources and solutions for the families and residents affected by this crisis.”

Amanda Renteria, national political director for the Clinton campaign, told The Detroit News on Tuesday that Clinton’s concern for the plight of Flint residents is genuine.

“When she sees a problem, she goes in and says, ‘What can I do and how can I help?’” Renteria said in an interview Tuesday after spending two days in Flint. “The secretary said there’s no doubt I want to be on this issue because we want these voices to be heard.”

U.S. Senate Democrats blocked a bipartisan energy bill from advancing for a vote Thursday until a compromise on Flint assistance is reached. The filibustering was led by Michigan’s two Democratic senators, Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township.

Stabenow and Peters originally proposed $600 million in Flint infrastructure and other aid and said they were willing to cut the amount nearly in half.

Republicans proposed $550 million in aid — $50 million of it immediately and $500 million in the form of loans that would need to be repaid. Stabenow and Peters said Flint needs immediate assistance and can’t afford to wait during many months while the appropriate fund is created.

Republican Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas accused the Democrats of partisan posturing Thursday and not making a good-faith effort to compromise. Cornyn said it was putting the “cart before the horse” to vote on a Flint package before Michigan has crafted a plan for how it will repair the city’s water infrastructure.

Snyder is set to unveil his long-term Flint aid package next week during his state budget presentation.

The Clinton campaign’s disclosure that she’s coming to Flint came one day after Sanders and Clinton agreed to debate on March 6 in Flint, two days before Michigan’s presidential primary.

The trip to Flint will be Clinton’s third campaign swing through Michigan since July. The last two trips in July and January have been for fundraisers.


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