Senate Republicans push for Flint aid bill

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Republicans in the Senate are lining up behind a $9.4 billion water bill that contains aid for Flint, Mich., pressing leadership to take up the legislation before lawmakers break for the summer recess.

{mosads}The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes dozens of waterways projects around the country, has been eyed as a way to break Congress out of gridlock and deliver emergency assistance for communities like Flint that are facing drinking water crises.

The waterways push from Republicans comes the day after the upper chamber blocked a House-passed funding package to battle the Zika virus.

“This bill is a clear representation of the legislative accomplishments we, as a conference, have achieved in the 114th Congress — strong bipartisan support, substantive reforms that benefit our nation as a whole, and a return to regular order expected of us by the American people,” the lawmakers wrote.

A total of 29 Republicans signed onto the letter, which was sent to GOP Senate leaders on Wednesday.

In April, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the WRDA by a 19-1 vote. The legislation identifies $4.5 billion worth of water-related infrastructure projects and authorizes $4.9 billion for drinking and clean water infrastructure over five years.

The measure also provides $220 million in direct emergency assistance to address drinking water crises in communities such as Flint, where water from the Flint River corroded the city’s pipes, contaminating the water supply with lead.

The Flint component would be paid for by cutting funds from the Energy Department’s Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology loan program.

The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill earlier this week, confirming that the cost of the legislation is fully offset, which makes it even more palatable to the Republican-led Senate.

A $5 billion House version does not contain the same clean drinking water provisions as the Senate measure due to jurisdictional differences between the two committees, meaning the chambers would likely have to go to conference.

Energy Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, said committee leaders are in the process of crafting a manager’s amendment for the WRDA bill and encouraged members to come forward with any suggestions.

“Let’s seize this valuable opportunity and bring WRDA 2016 to the floor,” Inhofe said. “Time is really of the essence.”

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