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Disaster politics in Flint, Michigan

Everybody can agree that the situation in Flint, Michigan is a disaster. But it’s a disgrace to see what lengths politicians will go to inhibit the recovery process.

For those who don’t know, the city of Flint, Michigan has had a water problem since April of 2014, when the city switched water systems. Since then, the city has failed to properly treat the water, and as a result, the water is full of contaminants such as lead. Since then, nearly 8,000 children have been exposed to contaminants, causing some irreversible brain and nervous system damage.

The problem could have been remedied last month, when President Obama declared a state of emergency in Michigan. This allowed the President to fund any crisis management in Flint, but it had to be capped at $5 million. However, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said it would cost close to $1.5 billion, which barely puts a band-aid over the situation. Since then, it’s been all downhill for Flint residents.

Senate Democrats originally proposed $600 million in order to replace the crumbling water infrastructure as well as a center to assist kids exposed to high lead levels. Republicans dismissed this proposal as excessive.

Last week, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (R) struck a back room deal that would give the city of Flint $220 million in emergency relief, a third of what Democrats asked for. However, the money comes at a price — the money comes from the Energy Department’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Fund. Essentially, the Energy Department, not FEMA, which has a $7 billion Disaster Relief Fund, has to pay for this.

What’s even worse, is that this deal hasn’t been approved either. Some Republicans are holding up the process, namely Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz. According to his spokeswoman Rachel Slobodien, he’s taking “more time to study the details of the proposal.” That would’ve been fine, if the bill didn’t involve Flint’s residents having potable water to drink.

Senate Republicans should be disgraced by their behavior over this crisis. Not only has it taken almost two years for them to recognize such a problem, but Senate leaders like James Inhofe are using the desperation of the situation as leverage. Such actions have prolonged Flint residents from attaining potable water, an essential to daily life.