Auto union slams Flint aid bill

Auto union slams Flint aid bill
© Getty Images

A leading auto workers union is urging the Senate not to cut a vehicle manufacturing fund to pay for an emergency water aid package for Flint, Mich.

A deal negotiated by Michigan’s Democratic senators and leading Republicans would provide $250 million to upgrade water infrastructure in Flint and other cities around the country. Lawmakers intend to cut the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program to pay for the aid package.

But the head of the United Auto Workers, in a letter to senators Monday, said he was “deeply disappointed” lawmakers would go after the fund, crediting the ATVM with helping to “create or save” 35,000 jobs during the economic downturn.

Continuing the program, UAW President Dennis Williams said, would help automakers keep jobs in the United States rather than outsourcing to other countries with lower manufacturing costs.

“These are jobs that could be used to strengthen domestic manufacturing and employ people in Flint,” he said.

Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeInhofe: Pruitt got 'wake-up call' after showing 'questionable judgment' GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council MORE (R-Okla.) originally suggested using the ATVM fund to pay for Flint aid, a proposal Michigan Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowNew Kid Rock film explores political divide Congress must work with, not against, tribal communities in crafting Farm Bill Senate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation MORE (D) initially called a “slap in the face.”

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came to accept the fund, a recession-era loan for American automakers, as the offset for Flint funding as negotiations progressed. Lawmakers now intend to use the program to pay for Flint aid, though they are still waiting on a Congressional Budget Office assessment of the fund mechanism before bringing the bill to the floor.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) offered no updates on the negotiations on Monday, saying only that they remain close — a status report often repeated by lawmakers over the last few weeks.

Despite that, Williams said Congress should find another way to pay for Flint aid, and suggested lawmakers instead open the door to disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Every state in our country has experienced emergency disasters and the Congress has often taken action to declare a disaster emergency,” he wrote.

“Congress should use its authority to declare Flint a major disaster so that FEMA can respond quickly and disperse much-needed federal aid … I urge the Senate to put politics aside and pass an emergency aid package for the people of Flint immediately.”

—Timothy Cama contributed.