By Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council
Congress’s utter disregard for the public health crisis in Flint is a national tragedy, as my colleague, Henry Henderson, pointed out yesterday.
This dual problem—poisoned water and Congressional inaction— has festered for over two years. Henry’s blog highlighted the year-old anniversary of the study of Dr. Hanna-Attisha that showed elevated levels for lead in the blood of children of Flint. NRDC and partners are asking a court to provide clean drinkable water immediately. Eight environmental groups wrote the Congress yesterday demanding funding for Flint.
The Republican leadership in Congress has simply turned its back on the suffering citizens of Flint. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced putting up for a vote a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown. The latest Senate version of this bill includes money for the flooding in Louisiana, but none for the people of Flint. While residents impacted by the flooding in Louisiana deserve help, it is horrific that the victims of the man-made disaster in Flint have been forced to continue to wait for assistance from Congress.
House Republican leadership are now talking about putting Flint funding in another bill that could be worked out with the Senate in a conference sometime in December. But this does not seem genuine; just another tactic to stall money to Flint.
The federal government’s funding bill should include money for both Flint and Louisiana. There are a number of tight-fisted Republicans who oppose aid to Flint. But look at the hypocrisy: the Flint money is paid for with cuts in research money for Michigan. Whereas, Louisiana flood assistance and Zika funding in the spending bill, bound for Republican states, are deemed ‘emergencies’ that don’t need to be paid for.
What is the difference in those two disasters?
One state has two Republican Senators, and the other has two Democrat Senators?
It is appalling that this would be a partisan issue. A few weeks ago, I accompanied representatives of Flint on their visits to members of Congress, where they described what incredible hardships they are enduring trying to live with bottled water for cleaning, cooking and bathing. Others told how difficult it is just to get bottled water in a community where many depend on public transportation, but don’t have the strength to haul enough of it on local buses.
In more than 40 years working with Congress, I have never witness such heart-felt, emotional, and, I thought compelling, pleas. Those pleas need to be answered.
Will Republican recalcitrance lead to them to shut down the government rather than allocate paid-for funding for Flint? Amazing.