Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to demand that Congress bring up a bill to send aid to Flint.
Before leaving for a six-week recess this Friday, Congress will vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government for the next 10 weeks. Congressman Kildee urged Congress to include funding for Flint in the continuing resolution, highlighting that the provision is fully paid for and passed the Senate by a vote of 95-3. Congressman Kildee also highlighted that Republicans previously claimed that the federal government was responsible for the crisis. But when asked to include funding for Flint in the continuing resolution, Republicans have shifted their position to blame the people of Flint.
A video of Congressman Kildee’s speech can be viewed here. A transcript of his remarks, as delivered, is below:
“I thank my friend, Mr. Hastings, for yielding and for all of his advocacy on behalf of the people in my community, but also many forgotten people across the country. I rise today in opposition to the previous question in order to bring up a vote to finally help the people of my hometown of Flint, Michigan. In two days, it will have been one year since Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha released the results of her research that showed that blood levels in children in Flint showed significantly elevated levels of lead, that the water that they had been drinking had poisoned them. A year later, here we stand.
“This Congress has not yet acted to provide any relief to a community that is facing the greatest crisis, the greatest disaster of its history. It’s been a year since it was known that that water was too dangerous to drink, and members in this body have heard me speak up on this before. But it’s been two years since actually the water contained lead. It took that long for the information finally to come to light. Yet, Congress has continuously failed to act.
“We have a way to get this done. I just ask my Republicans, my Republican colleagues in the House, to step out of the way and allow the bipartisan legislation that has passed the Senate to have a vote, to be included in legislation that this body is considering. You can do so by following the lead of the Senate, to pass legislation to provide relief to Flint on a vote of 95-3. The U.S. Senate, let me just make this clear, the United States Senate voted 95-3 to provide support for the people of Flint. And yet, nothing here in this House.
“We have an opportunity with the continuing resolution to include that language in the continuing resolution and help the people of my hometown. Again, people who yet today cannot drink their water without fear that it would poison them. This is a fully paid for provision. There’s always debate about whether we should be able to spend in case of emergency without having an offset. In this case, we have an offset. So, the argument has to be that the people of Flint simply don’t deserve to have their federal government act at their moment of greatest need.
“I know from the conversations that I’ve had from members on both sides of the aisle that can’t be the case. That cannot be. I’ve had all sorts of expressions of sympathy. Many Members of Congress have traveled to Flint, Democrats and Republicans, and have expressed to me on an almost daily basis that they wish there was something they could do to help those poor folks. Well you know what, sympathy expresses sentiment, but it doesn’t provide clean drinking water for the people of my hometown. We have a chance to act.
“Now, when this came before this body, this Congress in the form of hearings and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Energy and Commerce, many of my Republican colleagues, virtually every member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, spoke up and said what a shame it was that the federal government played a role in the crisis that Flint is facing, that the federal government bore some responsibility. Now, we can argue about how much lands at the state, I think the majority of the responsibility is the state’s, but I would agree that this is failure at every level of government. And my Republican colleagues went so far as to call for a cabinet member of the President to resign because the federal responsibility was so great. So great, that the member of the President’s cabinet should step down because it was the federal government who bore responsibility in part. But, suddenly, when it’s time to actually do something to help the people of Flint, what do we have? All of a sudden the narrative changes, all of a sudden, what was a federal problem with clear federal accountability and responsibility universally demonstrated by my friends on the other side of the aisle.
“When it comes time to take up a paid-for piece of legislation that will not increase the deficit, but will help these poor folks who cannot drink their water, what do we get? Shuffling of their feet. Stunned silence. Nothing, nothing. Shame. Shame! What would you do if it was your hometown? What would you do if it was your community? You know what you would do. You’d step to the floor of this house and you would make sure every single day you fought to get help for your community.
“One of the first votes I cast when I came here was to help victims of a storm that was nowhere near my home and I was proud to do it because they were Americans who happened to be in need. What is it about Flint? What is it about the people of Flint? Answer me. What is it that separates them? That has them in a position where their federal government can’t come to their aid when they can’t drink the water? When the water that comes from their tap is poison and we have a chance to do something about it without increasing the federal deficit with an offset that’s already identified? And I hear nothing. Nothing from the leadership of this House that gives any indication that the people of Flint matter at all. Shame. Shame.
“We ought to act and we ought to do it now. Not maybe three months from now. Not, oh Flint, maybe we’ll get you in the next bill, maybe the next piece of legislation. Shame.”