House Democratic leaders are heaping new scorn on Gov. Rick Snyder, accusing the Michigan Republican of ducking his responsibilities to the victims of the Flint water crisis.
Snyder on Wednesday unveiled a 2017 budget proposal that includes $195 million in new state funds to address the Flint crisis. The figure is a far cry from the $1.5 billion response Kildee and the Democrats have proposed –– a tab that would be split between Michigan's statehouse and the federal government.
"It's not enough to make it right," Kildee said of Snyder's proposal. "It's pretty hard to be appreciative of a less-than-adequate response to a problem the state itself created.
"They broke my city; they poisoned the kids of the city; and now are trying to provide barely enough to look like they're trying to solve a problem when they're not even coming close to that," he added.
The Flint crisis began in 2014, when an emergency manager appointed by Snyder switched the city's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The more corrosive river water leached lead from pipes into thousands of Flint homes, and residents' concerns were repeatedly ignored by both Snyder's office and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). State officials also resisted federal efforts to treat the water with anti-corrosion controls.
"The governor and his administration have bankrupted their ability to deal with this," Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.
Snyder has also asked President Obama to deem the crisis a "disaster" in order to tap more funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Obama has refused, and Democrats say they support that decision.
"It is a disaster. But it’s not a natural disaster, it’s a man-made disaster," Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraIn California race, social justice wing of Democrats finally comes of age Calif. gov: 'We're not going to bring stupid lawsuits' over border wall Eye on 2018: Five special elections worth watching MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday. "The people who created the crisis should step to the plate and be accountable. ...
"Clearly, the buck stops with the governor," Becerra added. "The governor is the one who has to come to the table and come up with a real, meaningful solution."
The comments came following a closed-door meeting between House Democrats and Shaun DonovanShaun DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who told the lawmakers that Obama supports emergency funding for Flint. He did not attach a figure to the president's endorsement.
"They're supportive of the approach we're taking, but … we'll continue to have discussions with them about what all the elements might be," Kildee said. "I think this will be a collaborative effort, and I can't say exactly how it will roll itself out. But they're very much supportive."
Meanwhile, Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowThe Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Perdue says he will advocate for agriculture spending RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight MORE and Gary Peters are pushing their own $600 million proposal to address the crisis. That legislation stalled last week, when Senate Republicans resisted the proposal as part of a bipartisan energy package. In response, Democrats blocked the energy bill from getting a final vote while the sides continue to negotiate on the Flint response.
On top of the boost in new funding, House Democrats are pushing legislation requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to notify the public when high lead concentrations are discovered in drinking water.
Kildee said the federal changes are needed largely because Snyder's response has fallen short.
"I have no confidence, nor do the people of Flint have confidence, that the governor is going to even come close to doing what's necessary," he said.