Utah sen­a­tor blocks aid bill, says Flint doesn’t need it

Repub­li­can Lee ob­jects to ‘fed­er­al­iz­ing’ sys­tem

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION - Todd Span­gler

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.”

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