Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) admitted Friday that he is temporarily blocking a federal water crisis and infrastructure bill from proceeding to a vote on the Senate floor, as leaders in both parties are attempting to pass the package legislation without debate or an opportunity to amend its language.
Lee specifically objects to the part of the Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act that calls for the release of $220 million from a Energy Department loan program. The funds would subsidize the replacement of lead pipes corroded by contaminated water in Flint, MI, and in other U.S. cities.
While the bill enjoys bi-partisan support, Lee argues that the state of Michigan has a budget surplus and already passed a bill directing $70 million out of the state emergency fund to fix Flint’s water system infrastructure.
“What’s really happening here is that Washington politicians are using the crisis in Flint as an excuse to funnel taxpayer money to their own home states,” Lee said. “The only thing Congress is contributing to the Flint recovery is political grandstanding.”
Both of Michigan’s Democratic senators are co-sponsoring the bill, which also sets aside $100 million in federal dollars for a lead water emergency in every state, allocates $70 million to obtain $700 million in loans for water infrastructure improvement programs across the country and stipulates that the EPA inform the public if high levels of lead are detected in drinking water.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz previously objected to passing the legislation with “unanimous consent“, but since reversed his position. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) also objects to the bill for unrelated reasons.
While Mr. Lee is slowing the legislation’s progress down, Sen. Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that the bill may come to the floor for a vote as early as this week.
[AP] [The Salt Lake Tribune] [The Detroit News]