House strikes deal on Flint in attempt to end shutdown threat

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House leaders have reached a deal to allow a vote on an amendment adding emergency funding for communities with lead-contaminated drinking water like Flint, Mich., to a waterways bill in a move that is designed to stave off an election-year government shutdown later this week.

{mosads}If successful, the move could allow a separate government-funding measure to move through Congress. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday voiced confidence that the House’s pathway to funding Flint would help the Senate pass a stopgap government spending bill by Friday’s deadline.

“That will help unlock the continuing resolution, which has been stalling in the Senate, which now I think will be unstuck,” Ryan said about the deal at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. “We should be able to move this through, I believe, before Friday.” 

Democrats were opposed to moving the funding bill without support for Flint. While this deal would not add Flint money to the government-spending measure, it would increase the odds of Flint funds being dealt with in the lame-duck session as lawmakers deal with Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). 

“The amendment represents a bipartisan agreement between Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi to allow germane authorization language to be added to WRDA as an amendment that will, at the end of the day, provide the necessary funding Flint needs in the final WRDA conference report,” an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) praised lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Tuesday for their “hard work over the past couple of hours” on the deal.

The agreement comes after Senate Democrats and a dozen Republicans blocked a stopgap spending bill to fund the government past Sept. 30.

Democrats opposed the legislation because it lacked Flint aid but included help for Louisiana flood victims. The government would shut down on Saturday without a new funding measure. 

The House Rules Committee agreed late Tuesday night to allow a floor vote on a bipartisan amendment to the water bill from Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) that would authorize up to $170 million for Flint, where water from the city’s river corroded the pipes and contaminated the water supply with lead.

The panel reversed course from a meeting on Monday, when committee lawmakers said they could not waive a point of order for a $220 million Flint amendment offered by Kildee because of a committee jurisdiction issue.

A Senate-passed version of the waterways bill included a $220 million Flint aid package, but the House version lacked the same drinking water provisions.

GOP leadership had assured lawmakers that the Flint issue could be dealt with in conference committee negotiations on the water bill, but Democrats wanted a stronger show of good faith from House Republicans.

The full House will now vote on the Flint amendment Wednesday, although it’s unclear just how much support it will garner. The upper and lower chambers also would still need to reconcile their two bills.

But the breakthrough could remove Democratic opposition to a continuing resolution that lacks Flint aid.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said he looks forward to reading through the language and hopes that the compromise lives up to its promise of helping the children and residents of Flint.

Sarah Ferris contributed.

This report was updated on Sept. 28 at 9:20 a.m.

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