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Democrats play political hardball to get money for Flint

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Flint is removing some of its lead pipes with state money, but is waiting for federal help.

Update: 9/28/2016 2:50 p.m.

There appears to be a compromise on funding for Flint that would avoid a potential partial shutdown of the government.  House Republicans say they will allow a vote on U.S. Representative Dan Kildee's amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, providing $170 million to help Flint deal with a lead-tainted water system.

U.S. Senator Gary issued the following statement:

“The people of Flint have waited far too long for Congress to act and finally help put them on the road to recovery. House Republican leadership refused to even go on record supporting Flint as recently as Monday, and I am pleased that under pressure from Senate and House Democrats they are now indicating some willingness to help Flint. I will continue pushing to pass our carefully crafted, fully paid-for agreement that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of WRDA or another legislative vehicle. I have said that Congress can and should help both flooding victims and Flint residents, and I cannot support a government funding bill that prioritizes one state’s emergency over another’s.”


Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted against a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9, sending the bill to defeat.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said the bill included $500 million to help victims of flooding in Louisiana, while ignoring residents of Flint, whose water was tainted with lead two years ago.  

She said Flint has been waiting for too long for help from the federal government.

"If, in fact, the people of Flint have to wait again, then the people of Louisiana can join them in that wait until the end of the year," Stabenow said at a press conference held before the vote, adding, "we don't want that."

Stabenow and other members of the Michigan Democratic delegation pointed out that the Flint funding was actually paid for by savings realized through eliminating another federal program.  That was not the case for the money to help Louisiana flood victims.

"It makes no sense," she said.

In the U.S. House, Michigan Representative Dan Kildee of Flint has been trying to get the money for Flint through an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act. 

Republicans blocked the move Monday night.

Party leaders have explained their reluctance to agree to funding because they see Flint as a "local" issue, and because it is a man-made disaster rather than a natural one.

But Kildee said he thinks Flint residents are being treated differently than other Americans, perhaps because of their race.

"The message to the people of Flint is loud and clear.  You don't matter," said Kildee.  "That's what they hear. They hear that they don't matter. We're here to say they do."

The federal government has enough money to continue operating through October 1.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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