- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2016

Senate Democrats filibustered a bipartisan energy bill Thursday, after Republicans refused to include $300 million in federal aid for Michigan residents afflicted by lead-tainted water in Flint.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said 100,000 residents “have been poisoned, and Republicans do nothing.”

“Nine-thousand little children — all under the age of six — have been poisoned, their brains attacked by the contaminated water. Still, Senate Republicans refuse to help,” the Nevada Democrat said.

The energy bill is designed to buttress things like natural gas exports and renewable fuel sources.

Yet Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan wanted to use the bipartisan package as a vehicle for federal aid to Flint, which has already received more than $35 million from the state to cope with its undrinkable water.

When Senate Republicans balked at their plan, the bill fell short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, losing a 43-54.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to salvage this important bipartisan legislation in the next few days,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The Flint crisis began in early 2014, when the city switched the source of its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. Corrosion from the water caused lead to leach from pipes.

City residents were outraged that state and federal officials did not sound the alarm, even as their children were exposed to lead poisoning that can severely impede physical and mental development.

Some families discovered that the amount of lead in their water was “above toxic waste-dump levels,” Mrs. Stabenow said.

House investigators on Wednesday called the debacle a failure at all levels of government — federal, state and local.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican who wrote the energy bill, said she tried to offer an amendment that provided $550 million to Flint — $50 million up front — but that it was spurned by Democrats.

“Our colleagues from Michigan refused to take yes for an answer,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, accusing Democrats of using “gamesmanship” to make the GOP look heartless.

Democrats, who scaled back their request from $600 million to $300 million, accused Republicans of hypocrisy, saying they are quick to request aid money for disasters in their own states but have balked this time around.

Congressional investigators have called the Flint situation a failure at all levels of government — federal, state and local.

Members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee who had wanted Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to appear before the House Oversight Committee this week invited him to testify this coming Wednesday.

“As the Governor of Michigan, the families of Flint and all Americans deserve to hear testimony directly from you on how this man-made crisis happened, and what is being done at the state level to make it right,” wrote Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Dan Kildee of Michigan, who represents Flint.


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