House aides: Deal reached to help Flint, keep US gov't open

Credit AP

With three days until a shutdown, Republicans and Democrats hashed out a compromise over funding for the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which had held up the temporary budget bill. Though the Senate attached Flint emergency funds to a water-infrastructure bill it passed earlier this month, it was unclear if the House would include the money in its version.

Mikulski said Democrats were not able to convince Republicans to remove a provision that blocks a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation from taking effect.

This was not supposed to be hard.

Without an extension, many federal agencies will run out of operating funds when the government fiscal year expires at midnight on Friday. So much for that. Democrats had accused Republicans of ignoring the plight of predominantly black Flint, a charge Republicans had rejected.

The House agreement comes after Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a vote to advance a short-term funding resolution to keep the government running after September 30.

One possible solution was suggested by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he might drop flood money for Louisiana and other states to satisfy Democrats who insisted they would not support emergency disaster aid for some states while leaving Flint behind. "It's nearly as if a few Democratic leaders decided long ago that bringing our country to the brink would make for good election-year politics".

The Senate has passed a bill to keep the USA government open, while also providing $1.1 billion to battle the Zika virus.

Flint funding was also omitted from the House version of the water bill.

House aides: Deal reached to help Flint, keep US gov't open
House aides: Deal reached to help Flint, keep US gov't open

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, following a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.

Securing Flint aid in both chambers' water bills appeared to eliminate the final remaining sticking point preventing passage of the stopgap spending bill, which stalled in the Senate on a procedural vote Tuesday. Senate Democrats overwhelmingly opposed a GOP spending proposal Tuesday because it does not include money for Flint.

The spending bill also includes full-year funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. "I'm not going to get into the particulars about negotiations", Ryan said.

"We have waited an bad long time for this", the congressman who represents Flint, Democrat Daniel Kildee, said on the House floor. The commitment from the House allowed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to support the continuing resolution before the Senate and for his caucus to fall in line behind him.

"As a result, we're hopeful that we will soon reach an agreement with our Democratic colleagues to move forward on the (CR)", he said. But Republicans balked and wanted Flint to be handled separately. The corrosive water caused the lead pipes to leach into the city's drinking water system.

Once passed by the House, the two chambers would hammer out compromise legislation after the November 8 elections.

"There's something about this poor community — this poor, majority-minority community — that exempts them from the kind of help that we have provided time and time again to people in crisis in this country", said Kildee, who is white.

Late Tuesday, the House Rules Committee reversed course, making in order an amendment that would authorise US$170 million that would help Flint.

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