FLINT A STICKING POINT IN ENERGY DEBATE: An aid package for the water crisis in Flint, Mich. is increasingly turning into a sticking point for lawmakers considering a broad energy bill in the Senate.
Negotiations to attach the aid to the energy bill appeared to be breaking down on Wednesday, with a key Democrat saying her caucus could block the underlying legislation if it does not get a good deal on Flint.
"We want to do something that will help people that need help," said Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowFight over water bill heats up in Senate Overnight Energy: Senate Dems set to fight water bill Senate Dems may block water bill over drought language MORE (D-Mich.), who has taken the lead in negotiating for Flint aid with Republicans.
Stabenow and other Democrats had hoped to secure a $600 million aid package to repair and replace water infrastructure in Flint. She said earlier Wednesday that she could accept a number less than half that figure.
But Republican leadership grew increasingly hostile to the request, with Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenators move to protect 'Dreamers' Democrats back down from shutdown threat Tax reform: Starting place for jobs, growth MORE (R-Texas) calling it a "blank check."
Sen. Jim InhofeJames Inhofe House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Fight over water bill heats up in Senate Trump taps Oklahoma attorney general to lead EPA MORE (R-Okla.) on Wednesday pushed a compromise package worth $200 million in loans for Flint and other cities with lead problems. But the deal would use money taken from the Energy Department's advanced vehicle manufacturing loan program, a high priority for Michigan.
"That's not something we're interested in," Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said.
Read more of The Hill's Flint coverage from Wednesday:
-The aid package puts the energy bill in jeopardy;
-Harry ReidHarry ReidStaff shakeup begins at Dem campaign committee The Hill's 12:30 Report Emanuel flips the bird when asked about 2020 MORE calls for a deal;
-Michigan Democrats slap down Inhofe's proposal
Flint hearing turns into blame game: Across the Capitol, federal and state officials looked to blame each other for the underlying problems in Flint.
At a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday morning, an Environmental Protection Agency administrator said the agency did what it was supposed to do in Flint by warning state regulators about lead levels in the city's water.
But Flint itself, said Keith Creagh, the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, was charged with testing and treating the city's drinking water after it began pulling from the Flint River in 2014.
Neither answer satisfied lawmakers. Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOversight panel demands answers on Pentagon waste report Chaffetz: Congress will ‘absolutely’ look at 5B in waste at Pentagon Clinton opponents vow to continue their pursuit MORE (R-Utah) bristled at the prospect the EPA moved slowly to tell state officials about the water problems, and said the agency should have announced its findings publicly.
And Democrats, especially members from Michigan, said Gov. Dan Snyder's (R) administration deserved blame for the lead problem because it was a Snyder appointee's decision to switch the water supply.
Democrats had hoped Snyder would be invited to speak at the hearing, and said they would look to use House rules to compel his testimony later on. Two other key figures -- the former EPA regional director for Flint and the city's former emergency manager -- declined requests to testify at the hearing, leading Chaffetz to subpoena the two.
"Participation before this committee is not optional," he said. "When you get invited to go before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you are going to show up."
Energy committee probes environmental agencies: Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters late Wednesday to the federal EPA and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality with more questions on the Flint crisis.
Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) are seeking details from both agencies on what they've done up to this point on Flint and what officials' responsibilities are going forward.
They're also specifically asking what state and federal officials have done in response to the EPA's Jan. 21 order compelling Michigan to take quick action to comply with federal drinking water rules.
See the letters here.
HOUSE UNVEILS COAL COMMUNITIES BILL: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled legislation Wednesday aimed at revitalizing communities hurt by the coal industry's decline.
The bill, known as the Reclaim Act, takes numerous cues from the Obama administration's Power Plus Plan, and is the result of negotiations between both parties in the House and the White House.
"Many coal communities in Appalachia simply do not have the resources to reclaim the abandoned mine sites within their borders," Rogers said in a statement. "This bill allows these communities to be proactive in restoring these sites and utilize them to put our people back to work."
The bill would move $1 billion from existing funds in the Abandoned Mine Lands program to states and tribes for economic development.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia rolled out the bill with Rogers on Wednesday.
"For the families that depended on mining jobs, benefits, and pensions that have disappeared as coal companies have closed their operations, we must act to provide new opportunities," said Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.).
A White House official applauded the introduction of the bill and said it's consistent with what the administration's been looking for with Power Plus.
ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote on the energy reform bill sponsored by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiSenators move to protect 'Dreamers' Speaker’s office: No energy bill this year Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy MORE (R-Alaska) and Maria CantwellMaria CantwellSpeaker’s office: No energy bill this year Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal MORE (D-Wash.). Late maneuvering over the Flint aid package could derail that vote.
AROUND THE WEB:
Environmentalists in Oregon sued the Agriculture Department Wednesday to challenge the legality of a federal program to kill wolves, the Associated Press reports.
Federal prosecutors aren't sure if they'll seek jail time for two key officials from the company that caused the massive chemical spill into Charleston, W.Va.'s water supply in January 2014, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.
A Danish company has committed to building the world's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of England, the Financial Times reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Wednesday's stories...
-Dem: GOP aid offer for Flint a 'slap in the face'
-Feds deploy health 'strike team' to Flint
-Finance Democrats push Hatch for energy hearing
-Oregon Dem wants to reimburse law enforcement for armed standoff costs
-Officials point fingers over Flint water crisis
-State AGs bullish about challenge to 'unlawful' Obama climate rule
-Flint crisis threatens to derail energy bill
-EPA chief: Michigan officials 'misled' us about Flint water crisis
-Reid pushes for Flint aid as energy bill nears finish line
-Oversight Republican threatens to have US marshals 'hunt down' Flint witness