Utah senator blocks aid bill, says Flint doesn’t need it
Republican Lee objects to ‘federalizing’ system
WASHINGTON— A Republican U.S. senator from Utah is holding up a federal funding package worth more than $100 million that could help address the issue of high lead levels found in Flint’s water, saying in a statement Friday that no federal aid is needed at this time.
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee said the measure proposed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich., represented a “federalizing” of water infrastructure. He argued that the state has not directly asked Congress for any emergency spending and has its own surplus to spend if needed.
“Michigan has an enormous budget surplus this year and a large rainy-day fund,” Lee said. “Relief and repair efforts are already in the works. The people and policymakers of Michigan right now have all the government resources they need. ... The only thing Congress is contributing to the Flint recovery is political grandstanding.”
Stabenow, who worked with Peters for weeks to secure Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, expressed surprise that Lee has placed a hold on the measure, which effectively keeps the Senate from voting on it, even though it is fully paid for.
“This bill doesn’t increase federal spending by one penny,” said Stabenow, adding that the legislation could help communities across the country.
Among other things, the measure would authorize a federal fund to make up to $100 million in grants between now and October 2017 “to any state that receives an emergency declaration ... to a public health threat from lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water system.”