Flint aid package, energy bill may re-emerge next week

Source: George Cahlink and Hannah Hess, E&E reporters • Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016

Backers of a $220 million aid package for Flint, Mich., and other communities with aging water infrastructure are holding out hope that the Senate will act on the legislation next week.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is a lead sponsor of the Flint measure, tweeted yesterday that she’s working hard with Republicans to “clear up any issues” and said she is “hoping to see votes next week.”

At least one concerned GOP lawmaker agreed to allow the deal to move forward. But the Senate is not in session again until Monday; it left yesterday without setting up any votes on Flint.

“I presume that they’re going to be successful next week,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said yesterday afternoon. “I’ve reached out to our leadership already so they’re aware of some traction in the Senate.”

Upton said it was “premature” to say when it could move through the House. He said one option could be to amend U.S. EPA-related legislation (H.R. 4470) that already passed the House with the Senate aid to speed its path to the president’s desk.

But he added, “The first step is to get the Senate to pass something, then we’ll take it from there.”

Senate leaders are hoping to reach an agreement to move the Flint measure in concert with a broader energy bill (S. 2012). Under the proposed deal, the energy legislation, along with a slew of agreed-upon amendments, would move first and then the chamber would consider the Flint relief (E&ENews PM, Feb. 25).

Several senators identified Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as a holdout against the consent agreement that would set up votes on the energy bill and amendments, as well as the Flint package.

The League of Conservation Voters yesterday accused Cruz, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, of “playing politics” with the Flint crisis. “It is simply despicable to hold up this bipartisan aid package while the people of Flint continue to suffer,” the LCV said.

Late last night, a Cruz spokesman said the senator “has reviewed the bill now and will not prevent it from moving forward.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was also opposed to moving ahead with the package. Vitter’s office did not respond to a request for comment.