Dems accuse Mich. governor of ducking accountability in Flint

Greg Nash

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.

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"If you have it within your power to correct your mistake, to make it up to those whom you wronged, you have a moral obligation to do that," Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents Flint, told reporters Wednesday. "He hasn't done that. The governor of Michigan has treated this as … a public relations problem for him, not a public health crisis for 100,000 people."

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 BecerraHispanics on Clinton's VP shortlist could help her win votes The Hill's 12:30 Report Clinton’s 9 most likely VP picks 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 DonovanOvernight Healthcare: New momentum to lift ban on gay men donating blood White House makes last-ditch plea for opioid funding Overnight Energy: Coal industry group backs Trump 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 StabenowOvernight Regulation: FDA raises concerns over GMO labeling bill FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise' Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans 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.