Rubio defends Michigan GOP governor on Flint

Republican presidential candidate Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Putting pressure on Trump, House passes bill barring government from doing business with ZTE The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans MORE defended Michigan’s Republican governor Thursday over his handling of Flint’s drinking water crisis and accused Democrats of trying to politicize the catastrophe.

Asked at Thursday’s GOP presidential debate what Republicans can do about improving the nation’s infrastructure, the Florida presidential hopeful quickly framed the Democrats’ response as overtly political.

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“The politicizing of it, I think, is unfair. Because I don’t think that someone woke up one morning and said, 'Let’s figure out how to poison the water system and hurt someone,’ ” he said.

“This should not be a partisan issue,” Rubio continued. “The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue, that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead.’ It’s absurd, it’s outrageous, it isn’t true.”

Rubio specifically defended Gov. Rick Snyder, who has been widely criticized by leaders in both parties.

A manager appointed by him ordered the water source switch that caused the drinking water to be contaminated with lead. His staff knew about the problem far before they took action to correct it and repeatedly downplayed residents’ concerns.

But while Rubio called the crisis “a systemic breakdown at every level of government,” he said Snyder’s actions were laudable.

“I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened. And he’s talked about people being held accountable, and he made the changes.”

Multiple top officials in Snyder’s administration have stepped down or been fired as a result of the crisis, particularly in the Department of Environmental Quality.

Flint is little more than an hour’s drive from Detroit, which hosted Thursday night’s debate. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Clapper: Trump distorting my comments is Orwellian Mueller probing Roger Stone's finances: report MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE will debate in Flint Sunday, two days before voters in both parties in Michigan vote in their primary.