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House aides: Congressional deal reached to help Flint, keep U.S. government open

House aides: Congressional deal reached to help Flint, keep U.S. government open
Posted at 9:11 AM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2021-01-14 15:59:21-05

Congressional leaders have broken a stalemate over money to address the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, top House aides said Wednesday, clearing the way for a spending bill needed to keep the government running until December. The spending measure also would provide long-delayed money to fight Zika.

The accord is a first step for providing aid to rid Flint of its lead-tainted water.

Governor Rick Snyder is holding a meeting on the Flint water crisis.

Aides to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and the chamber's Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed the accord early Wednesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity so they could discuss the pact, which has not been announced publicly.

The deal promises to free up the short-term spending measure, which had failed to advance in the Senate on Tuesday. That had left lawmakers facing responsibility for a government shutdown at midnight Friday, if they did not act.

According to House aides, the agreement promises to provide $170 million to help Flint and other cities with water emergencies, the aides said. It would be added as an amendment to a separate water projects bill.

The House was expected to vote on the water legislation containing the Flint provision on Wednesday. The amendment represents a bipartisan agreement authorizing the funding, but the actual money would await the final House-Senate version of the bill after the November election.

Democrats balked on the larger spending bill Tuesday because it didn't address the Flint crisis. So did a dozen of the Senate's most conservative members, and the bill stalled in that chamber.

Democrats argued it's unfair that the water crisis in Flint has gone on for more than a year with no assistance, while Louisiana and other states are getting $500 million for floods that occurred just last month. Democrats have played a strong hand in the negotiations and had leverage because Republicans controlling the House and Senate were eager to avoid a politically harmful shutdown at midnight Friday.

"Democrats have been clear that Congress should not leave Flint and other lead-tainted communities out of any (stopgap spending) negotiation that includes emergency disaster funding," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other top Democrats in a Tuesday morning letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The stopgap spending bill would keep the government running through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to fight the spread of the Zika virus and develop a vaccine and improved tests to detect it. Zika can cause can cause grave birth defects.