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Candidate Cruz Delaying Flint's Lead Contamination Fix

Some senators also questioning if Flint's crisis is similar to a 'natural disaster'

February 26, 2016

The crisis in Flint has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is holding up bipartisan legislation to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan , where lead-contaminated pipes have resulted in an ongoing public health emergency.

Senators reached a tentative deal Wednesday for a $220 million package to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes, make other infrastructure improvements and bolster lead-prevention programs nationwide.

Cruz and at least one other GOP senator objected to a quick vote on the deal, delaying Senate consideration of the bill until at least next week. Cruz was campaigning Thursday ahead of a scheduled Republican debate in Houston, but senators are able to block bills remotely under Senate rules.

Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said staffers were "simply reviewing the bill right now," noting that the Flint proposal only emerged on Wednesday.

Novack declined to specify the nature of Cruz's concern, but many Republican senators have said it's too early to provide funds for Flint without specific plans from state and local officials. Some Republicans also question whether Flint is similar to natural disasters such floods or hurricanes, since the crisis was the result of a political decision.

The legislative impasse over Flint has blocked a bipartisan energy bill that had been moving forward in the Senate. Under the tentative agreement, the Senate would vote on the energy bill before taking up the Flint legislation as a separate bill.

Sen. Gary Peters , D- Mich. , said the plan provides $100 million for subsidized loans and grants to any state that declares an emergency due to a public health threat from lead or other contaminants in its public drinking water supply.

"Certainly Flint is an extreme example right now, but there are problems all over the country" with lead in aging pipes, Peters said. "We've got a widespread national problem and there should be resources to help every state in the union."

Peters and other supporters said the deal would use federal credit subsidies to provide incentives for up to $700 million in loan guarantees and other financing for water infrastructure projects nationwide.

The bill would be paid for by redirecting up to $250 million from an Energy Department loan program approved in the 2009 economic stimulus law.

Source: AP

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