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The House easily passed a major waterways bill on Wednesday that included a bipartisan compromise to address the drinking-water crisis in Flint, Mich.

{mosads}A late-night deal on Flint aid helped resolve Democratic opposition to a stop-gap spending bill that lacked emergency funding for the city, paving the way for Senate passage of a continuing resolution earlier in the day and ending the threat of a government shutdown.

In a 399-25 vote, House lawmakers approved the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes dozens of water-related infrastructure projects around the country.

Lawmakers adopted numerous amendments during floor debate, including one from Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) that would authorize up to $170 million for Flint.

“We decided we don’t want to create brinksmanship. That doesn’t do anybody any good,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

A Senate-passed version of WRDA included a $220 million, fully off-set Flint package to help communities around the country with lead-contaminated water supplies. But the House version lacked the same drinking water provisions, due to committee jurisdictional differences.

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 insistence we include Flint in the CR was … because we were hitting a brick wall getting it into WRDA,” Kildee said.
He said the deal that emerged Tuesday night, which was brokered by leadership and Kildee, “goes beyond written assurance. This is a vote in the House of Representatives.”

The two chambers will now have to reconcile their water bills in the lame-duck session. The House Flint amendment contains $50 million less than the Senate’s package, is specific to Flint and is only an authorization – not an appropriation. But Flint supporters sound confident they can come to an agreement.

Democrats didn’t get everything they were seeking in the underlying water bill.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, slammed GOP leadership for dropping a Democratic-favored provision from the measure to ensure that money collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is actually used for upkeep of ports and harbors.

More than 40 percent of the fund’s revenue has been diverted to offset other congressional spending over the past decade.

DeFazio also blasted a Texas project tucked into the underlying legislation because a portion of the $810 million in authorized funding would go toward splash parks, baseball fields and covered basketball courts.

“Given that the Republican leadership has broken our bipartisan agreement [on harbor maintenance] on this bill, I am able to openly oppose this waste of taxpayer dollars,” DeFazio said.

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