Week ahead: Last-minute push for Flint aid, energy reform bill

Week ahead: Last-minute push for Flint aid, energy reform bill

Lawmakers are hoping for a zero-hour deal on emergency funding for Flint, Mich.

Members spent most of the past week -- as they have all year -- grappling for a compromise on an aid package for the city, which say its drinking water contaminated by lead. 

Lawmakers hope to spend millions of dollars to replace corroded water pipes in Flint and other cities around the country.

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Nearly everyone -- Michigan lawmakers, congressional leadership, and Flint officials from both parties -- agree that a Flint deal has to get done this year. Members said they were closing in on a deal, but there are key questions looming. 

First: How does Flint aid get across the finish line? Members would prefer moving it in a waterways bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Negotiators were nearing a WRDA compromise until an 11th hour dispute erupted over a "buy American" provision in the Senate's version of the bill. 

The clause would require American iron and steel products for projects assisted by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. But, sources told The Hill, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump Amash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise MORE (R-Wis.) opposes that provision, threatening a final deal on the legislation. 

If they don't use the waterways bill, lawmakers hope to use a must-pass, short-term spending bill as a vehicle for Flint aid. Members are aiming to roll out that package early in the coming week. 

But that raises another question: How much money will Flint and other cities get? Key lawmakers have predicted the aid package will total $170 million, the amount the House set aside for Flint in its WRDA bill. 

Senators -- and Flint's representatives -- want a bigger deal, worth up to $220 million. 

When pressed on funding levels on Thursday, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said, "we're still pushing for the higher number."

Even so, he predicted a bill gets done next week.

"So far, so good. I spoke with the Speaker earlier today and he said 'we'll get it done," he said. "It's one of those things, until it's done, there's a certain anxiety I'll still have, but I feel pretty good."

The energy industry is also keeping its eyes out for a final deal on an energy reform package.

Members have been working for months to write a compromise energy bill, which would be the first in more than a decade. But, after a handful of meetings, a deal is still out of sight. 

Judging by the recent back-and-forth between the House and Senate, wide gaps remain on several key issues.

Lead Senate negotiators recently said they were grappling over a list of issues that included: "[liquified natural gas] exports, sportsmen's [provisions], the Land & Water Conservation Fund, hydropower, natural gas pipelines, manufacturing, innovation, carbon benefits of biomass and critical minerals."

There are have always been gaping gulfs between the House and Senate energy bills. Members will have one more week to bridge those divides before they're likely forced back to the drawing board early next year. 

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