The people of Flint, Michigan should be receiving an $850 million aid package, but it’s being held up by Senate Republicans.
According to Politico, one of the Republicans holding up the bill is Sen. Ted Cruz, who is also a presidential candidate. Cruz has requested a “soft hold” on the aid bill and has asked for more time to study it. However, a spokesman for Cruz anticipates he will not stop the bill from proceeding.
“Cruz has reviewed the bill now and will not prevent it from moving forward,” according to spokesman Phil Novack.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who represents Michigan, said Cruz’s temporary hold on the bill could come back to haunt his presidential campaign. Cruz is already trailing to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“We have heard that, and [it’s] not a very smart move for a man who’s going to be in a primary in Michigan on March 8,” Stabenow told Politico. “And in Michigan this is a hugely bipartisan, nonpartisan issue that everybody cares about.”
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are scheduled to hold a debate in Flint on March 6.
Cruz has already tried to politicize the Flint crisis by only sending drinking water to clinics approved by an anti-abortion advocacy group, according to Mediaite.
Sen. Mike Lee has also requested a hold on the bill. According to Politico, Republicans have concerns about the way the federal government responds to emergency situations.
The Senate hold is just one more frustration for the people of Flint, who have been waiting on the government to act on the contaminated water situation since 2014, when it was first discovered. Flint residents complained of brown water that caused bodily rashes, but Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration downplayed the situation.
Snyder is currently in the middle of a full-blown crisis. He is facing calls to resign and a possible recall. He is set to testify in front of Congress over the water situation, and The Detroit Free Press reported that Snyder has reassigned Communications Director Meegan Holland and Press Secretary Dave Murray. Snyder has also hired two national public relations firms, Mercury LLC and Finn Partners, to handle crisis communications. Snyder-appointed emergency managers are being blamed for using the contaminated Flint River as a water source to save money.
The emergency managers might have implemented the changes to save money, but their decision ended up costing Flint a lot more money in the long run. According to U.S. News & World Report, Flint’s mayor said it will cost $1.5 billion to fix the city’s aging pipes. The Detroit Free Press reports the water crisis is expected to cause a 25 percent drop in property values.
According to The Washington Post, Flint is likely to face several long-term and short-term social problems. High levels of lead in children has been linked to a host of developmental problems. In fact, when the government ordered lead levels to be reduced in gasoline, it resulted in an increase in test scores. The Post predicts Flint will likely see an increase in teen pregnancy and crime.
Several Flint residents have already reported physical problems from the contaminated water.
“We all started breaking out in rashes, experiencing hair loss. At one point I had lost most of my eyelashes,” said LeeAnn Walters in an interview with The Atlanta Blackstar. “[My] twins were not gaining weight properly. Gavin, one of the twins, has a compromised immune system, so his height and weight is affected more, and every time he came into contact with the water he would break out in a horrible rash. It was so bad, he had to have Benadryl before he could even have a bath. My 14-year-old son, JD, was out of school for almost a month. He was having terrible pains, dizziness, nausea and had a hard time walking up steps.”
Politico said that at least one Republican, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, realizes that urgent action is needed. Inhofe has urged his colleagues to forgo fiscal conservatism and approve the spending plan. He said high levels of lead in children’s’ blood represents a healthcare and infrastructure crisis.
“I always try to stress to people, and I did in there, that now and again you have an issue that rises above what would normally be your behavioral pattern. This did,” said Inhofe.