Flint, energy bill talks stall in Senate

Flint, energy bill talks stall in Senate
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Lawmakers are expressing frustration as talks over an aid package for Flint, Mich., and a broad energy reform bill stall in the Senate.

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowGOP Senate challenger in Michigan raises .5 million in less than a month It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record MORE (D-Mich.), who is helping to lead the charge on the aid package, said this week that Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate ratifies long-stalled tax treaty On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Liberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow MORE (R-Utah) has so far refused to lift his hold on the measure despite a budget office report showing it would not add to the federal deficit.

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Lee’s office said it sent Stabenow a new offer on the deal Monday but wouldn’t give specifics.

“Staff has been talking this afternoon, but there’s no good reason for this,” Stabenow said Tuesday.

“It’s bipartisan, completely paid-for, includes deficit reduction. For me, this is about helping 9,000 children in Flint who have lead poisoning, as well as the entire community, and I don’t understand.”

If Lee lifts his hold on the $250 million package to pay for water infrastructure repairs in Flint and elsewhere, senators will have cleared a major hurdle to resuming consideration of an energy reform bill. Lawmakers pulled the measure from the floor in February after Democrats blocked the legislation, which didn’t address the water crisis in Flint.

But Lee’s hold is not the only one on the package. Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE (D-Fla.) wants to block the bill unless Republicans drop plans to vote on an amendment to expand revenue sharing for offshore oil drilling. Nelson is worried the energy bill would encourage drilling off the coast of Florida.

Asked Wednesday if he still has a hold on the legislation, Nelson smiled and said, “Of course I do."

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and lead sponsor of the reform bill, said Wednesday she hopes to resolve the issues soon, before the Senate moves into the 2017 appropriations process.

“There is a schedule that [Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE, R-Ky.] would like to keep, and I concur with him,” she said. “But if we’ve got a consent agreement that allows for a very limited time and we can just move right through [the energy bill], then we can cut and paste, if you will. And I’d like to do that.”

Murkowski’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellFAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Women lawmakers to play in Congressional Baseball Game following Title IX anniversary Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote MORE (Wash.), said the bill could be the next one to come to the floor, though she acknowledged that she and others have been saying that for weeks.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “It’s a shame, there’s so much important energy policy. Hopefully, our colleagues that are holding it up will stop doing that.”

—Cory Bennett contributed