Challenges Ahead for Senate Bill to Provide Federal Aid to Flint

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WASHINGTON —

Senators are hoping to take up a bill next week that would provide federal aid to Flint, Michigan, to help the city deal with its water crisis.

But there are several complications still to be resolved before that can happen.

First, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee is objecting to taking up the bill because he opposes the way the measure is funded and is trying to negotiate changes. Those talks are still underway.

Second, a new problem has come up this week related to an energy modernization bill that must be voted on before the Senate takes up the Flint bill.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is refusing to give his consent to take up the energy bill because GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is insisting he get a vote on an amendment dealing with increased royalties for states from off-shore oil drilling. Nelson vehemently opposes expanding drilling in the waters near Florida and he thinks the Cassidy amendment would provide fresh incentives to states to expand drilling.

Right now it’s unclear when or if these remaining issues will be resolved. Senate GOP leaders have hinted they could force action next week to get past the Lee and Nelson objections. That would require procedural votes that get 60 or more votes, which is likely.

Even if the Senate passes the Flint measure, the House needs to approve it as well, and right now, House GOP leaders have not committed to acting on it.

Last year, researchers and medical personnel discovered high levels of lead in Flint residents, especially children.

Flint’s water crisis occurred after the city switched its water source about two years ago to cut costs. Flint used to buy Lake Huron water through the city of Detroit, but the state ordered the source changed to water from the Flint River.

The city reverted to using the Lake Huron water supply in the fall.

In January, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency.

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