Congress has headed home until after Election Day and has left more than 100,000 people in the city of Flint, Michigan in the lurch—again. Republican leaders had yet another chance to approve funding for Flint before going on recess, but instead they kicked the can (and the people of Flint) down the road—and most House Republicans voted against even the promise that help could materialize later.
Why should Flint have to wait, after a two-year public health crisis?
And why should Flint residents trust Republican leaders’ promise of future funding at this point?
Here’s what happened right before Congress left town. Democrats tried to get money into a must-pass funding bill to keep the government open until December, but Republicans refused to agree to that, threatening a government shutdown.
So Democrats offered another avenue for possible funding: the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). That’s not as good a vehicle—it’s not a must-pass bill and it won’t get through Congress until November at the earliest, but at least it held out the possibility of help for Flint. The Senate passed its version of WRDA, which includes aid for Flint, earlier in September, and the House wanted to take up its version before the October recess. WRDA). That’s not as good a vehicle—it’s not a must-pass bill and it won’t get through Congress until November at the earliest, but at least it held out the possibility of help for Flint. The Senate passed its version of WRDA, which includes aid for Flint, earlier in September, and the House wanted to take up its version before the October recess.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) offered an amendment to the House bill that added Flint funding and it passed 283-142 (vote count here) with a majority of Republicans voting against the Flint funding, apparently contending it was a “local” issue.
That’s sheer hypocrisy. WRDA is all about funding local projects. Take, for example, the Upper Trinity River project in Texas. As Taxpayers for Common Sense said in a letter to Congress, the project “is portrayed as a flood damage reduction effort, but is really a massive economic development initiative that would divert precious Corps resources to construct soccer and baseball fields, basketball courts, and even a splash park.” (Congressional Record at H5967)
Other WRDA projects fund beach sand re-nourishment and flood protections for private property (List of some of the projects and costs listed here starting at page 29). Projects that may be very important locally but almost all with significantly less urgency than replacing the lead-corroded pipes contaminating the water that flows to an entire American city.
Florida Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings rebutted the Republicans’ “local” argument on the floor:
“American families are being poisoned by lead-contaminated water. When that happens, we have a moral responsibility to act now. We can’t wait any longer. I have heard around here that it is a local and a State responsibility. Well, if that is the case, we need to shut this institution down because everything, then, would be a local and a State responsibility, and all of our infrastructure issues of consequence would be a State and a local issue, as they are, but the Federal Government has responsibilities as well.”
(Congressional Record at H 5930)
Amazingly, 122, Republicans voted against Flint funding but voted for final passage of the Water Resources bill.
It will be November or December before Congress reconciles differences over WRDA. The Kildee amendment would provide less money than is in the Senate bill. Senate Democrats are promising to make sure Flint is completely funded in the final Water Resources package.
We cannot allow the Congress to adjourn again this year without committing the country to fix the water system in Flint. Enough is enough. Meantime, those in Flint are forced to wait.