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Flint lawmaker: No recess until Congress passes aid

Flint lawmaker: No recess until Congress passes aid
© Greg Nash

The congressman who represents Flint, Mich., urged House members not to break for a two-week recess on Wednesday until they pass an aid package to address the city’s contaminated water crisis. 

“[Flint residents] deserve help from the state, and they deserve help from their federal government,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D) said in a floor speech Wednesday.

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“They are citizens of Michigan, but they are also citizens of the United States who are facing a disaster, who are facing a crisis, and have every right to expect that their government will step in to help them, especially when it is clear that it was the government that did this in the first place, that made the decisions that led to this crisis.”

He said Congress has a “moral responsibility” to pass an aid package and that it would be “unconscionable” to leave for a recess without doing so. 

House lawmakers have previously approved legislation speeding up federal notification for contaminated drinking water, but senators are still negotiating the details of a $250 million aid bill for Flint and other cities. The Senate is already out on a two-week recess.

Regardless of Kildee's call, the House voted on two bills Wednesday before leaving town for a recess of its own.

But Democratic angst over the lack of progress on Flint and other public health issues is growing. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said on Wednesday that Congress should move quickly on Flint aid and funding for other health crises. 

During a hearing on the 2017 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DeLauro said “Congress is dragging its feet” on Flint aid, the opioid epidemic and an outbreak of the Zika virus.

“We are facing three public health crises on three fronts, and the CDC is critical to confronting each of them to protect American families and children,” she said. “Unfortunately, Congress is dragging its feet, leaving Americans at risk.”

The Obama administration has called for nearly $2 billion to fight the Zika virus — an emergency funding request that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this week needs to be approved before the upcoming two-week recess.

House Republicans have remained firm in their opposition, arguing that federal health officials have more than $1 billion left over from their pool of funding for the Ebola virus. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Healthcare: Burwell huddles with Dems on fighting ObamaCare repeal Reid: Bring back the earmarks Ryan: GOP won’t ‘pull the rug out’ from 'Dreamers' MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that the U.S. has “plenty of money” for Zika.

DeLauro said she opposes Ryan's idea because it would mean undertaking a shift in public health programming. On Flint, she said Congress needs to increase funding for a childhood lead poisoning program beyond what the Obama administration requested. 

“We can and must do better than this,” she said. “Do we not understand that children and adults are at risk of lead poisoning all over the country?”

—Sarah Ferris contributed.