As the water crisis in Flint, Mich., shows no signs of abating, Congressional politicians seem nearly deadlocked and a bipartisan plan to give aid to the troubled city is at risk.
At the same time, a political blame game has strengthened, all while the residents of the majority African American industrial town an hour north of Detroit try to figure day-to-day how they will get water to bathe and drink in.
“This is not an abstraction. This is 100,000 kids and adults all suffering every single day and it’s pretty frustrating,” said Michigan Democratic Sen. Dan Kildee in an interview with the Associated Press. “We will not give up, that’s for sure,” he added, vowing that congressional Republicans “are not going to run out the clock on Flint, Michigan.”
Both Democrats and Republicans in Michigan have been fighting to get help for Flint and have fought together for federal aid. In addition, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder advocated for immediate passing of a bill at a congressional hearing last week.
But the Utah Sen. Mike Lee held up passage of the bill – which could deliver $250 million in help — in February, saying Michigan has a budget surplus and does not need any federal funds.
“The people and policymakers of Michigan right now have all the government resources they need to fix the problem,” Lee said, according to CNN. “The only thing Congress is contributing to the Flint recovery is political grandstanding.”
Meanwhile, as the clock ticks, a circus of blame is continuing. Snyder laid blame on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in the hearing. He said that he did not learn that Flint’s water was contaminated until Oct. 1, 2015 — nearly 18 months after the city began drawing its water from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money.
A task force Snyder commissioned points at several other bureaucratic failures by DEQ officials, but also blasts the Environmental Protection Agency for poor enforcement of safe drinking water regulations.
But it also pointed fingers back at Snyder because executive decisions by the DEQ he is ultimately accountable for.
Blame had also largely been pointed at the city’s former emergency manager Darnell Earley, who recently retired as emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. He himself blamed the Flint City Council.
“I am convinced that the council voted to go with KWA (Karegnondi Water Authority) knowing that the Flint River would serve as the water source irrespective of an actual council vote on that specific part of the plan,” he told the Michigan Chronicle earlier this month. “I also dispute the accounts that I made any kind of dictatorial edict to force the city into using the Flint River despite pleas to the contrary. The record demonstrates local consensus to use the river, and such use was discussed by the Council and the Mayor.”
The Snyder task force also recommended the state’s emergency manager law be reviewed because of failures by emergency managers like Earley to protect Flint citizens.
“Until we fully understand why state-controlled entities, including the DEQ, the DHHS and four emergency managers, didn’t protect people, we cannot ensure this kind of tragedy will not be repeated,” Michigan state Sen. Jim Ananich, a Flint Democrat told the Flint Journal.
Race, however has served as an underlying factor, according to The New York Times editorial board. In an opinion piece, they held the governor’s feet to the fire, writing:
“Mr. Snyder did not inspire confidence when he said on Wednesday that he did not know if race was a factor in the Flint disaster, even though the record shows that the concerns of poor and minority residents were dismissed by his administration in ways that would never have happened with rich white communities.”