Senator Mike Lee defends delay of Flint aid bill, says Michigan has ‘large rainy-day fund’

FILE: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) | photo via senate.gov

FILE: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) | photo via senate.gov

By Ted Barrett

CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee issued his first statement Friday explaining why he has a “hold” on a $250 million bill to provide federal funds to Flint, Michigan, and other communities facing problems with their drinking water.

Lee, a tea party favorite, says the problems in Flint are “man-made” and the state has “a large rainy-day fund totaling hundreds of millions of dollars” that should be used before federal resources are utilized.

“The people and policymakers of Michigan right now have all the government resources they need to fix the problem,” Lee said. “The only thing Congress is contributing to the Flint recovery is political grandstanding.”

The bill, agreed to by bipartisan negotiators two weeks ago, would finance water projects in affected communities around the country like Flint where the drinking water supply was poisoned by lead pipes causing serious health hazards for its residents. The bill also has provisions to deal with the health problems caused by the lead.

Pushed by the two Democratic senators from Michigan, the legislation has created a classic clash of political philosophies in the Capitol: Democrats believe Washington should step up with funds just as if Flint were hit by a natural disaster like a tornado or flood, while some Republicans think the federal government shouldn’t be involved and state and local governments should deal with the problem.

An aide to Lee said the Utah congressman wants to limit funding to just Flint, not other communities, out of fear that if it were open to all communities, it could be an expensive and ongoing fund.

“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, and trying to sneak it through the Senate without proper debate and amendment,” Lee said. “I respectfully object.”

Lee is using a courtesy given senators to prevent a bill from being taken up on the floor because that senator has objections with the bill. It is a step short of a filibuster but could become one if Lee’s concerns are not addressed and the leadership tries to bring it to the floor over his objections.

“This bill doesn’t increase federal spending by one penny — it’s fully paid-for and has the co-sponsorship of the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and four other leading Republicans,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, after Lee issued his statement.

“I am extremely surprised that Senator Lee would be holding up a bipartisan bill that would help communities across the country including in his home state of Utah. If Senator Lee opposes this bipartisan bill, that is fully paid-for, he should vote against it, but he should not block it from even getting a vote,” she added.

Key senators and aides in both parties said Thursday they hope to address some of Lee’s specific concerns with the way the bill is paid for and that he will lift his hold. The Flint bill is tied to an unrelated energy bill that also is facing objections from senators. Negotiations on both continue.

Senate leaders hope to be able to take up the bills after completing an addiction bill sometime next week.

The-CNN-Wire
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13 comments

  • Love Utah

    What a D bag. He is digging a deeper hole trying to explain his way out of his vote. Keep talking Lee. Bu bye!

    • ERIC ANDERSON

      Why is Flint Michigan’s disastrous decisions made by far left Democrats Mike Lee’s problem ….. or mine? The Democrats screw up and come crying to the rest of the country to help bail them out.

  • bob

    Why is it the job of a conservative Utahn to bail out the liberal idiots in Michigan who caused the problems?

    We are TWENTY TRILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT. A number that has doubled in just 7 years.

  • bob

    It is not my job to fix Flint’s municipal water system any more than it’s Flint’s job to fix Tooele’s horrible storm drains.

    Why can’t more people understand that when money is shuffled around like that a big chunk of it sticks to the bureaucratic machinery on the way?

    Fix your own pipes, Flint. And make better choices next time. Democrats CAUSE problems. They don’t solve them.

    • Terence W.

      When the cause of all this was a mishap of GOP leadership in trying to save money by using a known lead source, I can hardly accept the fact that Democrats cause problems.

      This was a result of GOP leadership; a sensible person would take the fault and find a way to fix it. Since that hasn’t happened, it’s time the Feds step in. That’s how government works.

      If this happened in Utah to your own house, I’m fairly sure you’d feel the same way.

      • bob

        The Democrats have dominated politics in and around Flint for decades. Trying to blame “Republicans” is hilarious.

        The proposed “solution” is, as usual, to heap an enormous pile of debt on the already obscene pile.

        As pointed out, Michigan has a fund available with hundreds of millions of dollars. I want a liberal to explain to me why they shouldn’t use it to fix their own problems.

      • ALYCE DIXON

        The liberals running Flint didn’t like the prices the liberals in bankrupt Detroit were charging for water and so they decided to shoot themselves in the foot and use a secondary water supply. The Democrats running Flint screwed up and therefore it must be the Republican’s fault.

  • Terence W.

    I personally call on the guy to resign. There’s no sensible reason to choose this type of outcome as a Senator of our great state. We believe in human kindness and help as a state, and this act is truly the opposite.

    Mike Lee…reconsider your standing as a Senator or leave your position.

    • ALYCE DIXON

      Mike Lee will run for re-election and there is no reason to believe he won’t win. We’ve seen the results when Democrats try to run things.

    • ERIC ANDERSON

      Liberal Democrats in Flint caused the problem now Senator Lee wants them to be financially responsible. Shocking!!

  • Edward Morgan

    This is exactly what is wrong with the Republican Party, Time to vote these clowns out of power.

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