Lawmakers have come up with a compromise to avoid a potential government shutdown and provide long-awaited aid for Flint, Michigan—though the band-aid measure will still keep that community, which has been grappling with a lead-contamination crisis for more than two years, waiting for funds at least until November.
According to news outlets, U.S. House leaders on Tuesday night struck a deal to allow a vote on an amendment adding $170 million in infrastructure funding under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), to help Flint and other cities with water emergencies.
The agreement followed days of tense talks, and came after Senate Democrats earlier on Tuesday blocked a vote to advance a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Friday, citing the GOP's refusal to include funding for Flint. The legislation does include emergency flood assistance for Louisiana, West Virginia, and Maryland.
How did we have so much money available to go to war in Iraq, but somehow Republicans won’t send money to Flint? pic.twitter.com/H3oOqrCv0P
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 27, 2016
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 26, 2016
And any politician who won't stand with Flint, MI - whose kids are choking on poisoned water - lacks the moral courage to serve in Congress.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 27, 2016
Helping poisoned children should not be a partisan issue. But #Flint water still unsafe to drink & GOP still holding up needed assistance.
— Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) September 27, 2016
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the breakthrough on Flint "will help unlock" the short-term spending bill. Indeed, the Washington Post reported that while "Senate Democrats have not yet examined the House amendment...a senior aide said leaders are 'optimistic' that the deal could offer a path to avert a shutdown."
And Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who has been outspoken in his call for Flint funding (and about the cause of the crisis in the first place), said the deal "is a step forward to ensuring that Flint families get the resources they need to recover from this crisis."
"The people of my hometown have waited over two years for their government to help them in their time of need," Kildee said. "We will continue to fight until Flint aid reaches the President's desk."
That may not be until December, the Post reported, as the House and Senate versions of the WRDA must still be resolved, and Congress is about to depart on recess until after the Nov. 8 election.
And as Michigan Public Radio notes:
If [the WRDA] passes, it's unclear how long it will take for the money to reach the city of Flint.
As of Tuesday, the city had replaced 155 lead service lines. It's estimated there could be 10,000 pipes connecting Flint homes to city water mains that continue to leech lead into the city’s drinking water.
"The people of Flint deserved assistance more than a year ago, and they require assistance now, without further delay," a coalition of 86 civil rights, public health, and environmental groups wrote in an open letter to Congress this week. "Therefore, it is critical that aid comes now so that other children and families will not suffer."
The full House is set to vote on the Flint amendment on Wednesday.