Cruz among senators holding up Flint deal

Source: By Devin Henry, The Hill • Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is among a group of lawmakers putting a hold on a deal to provide aid for Flint, Mich., and resume Senate consideration of a major energy reform bill.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Bloomberg News Thursday that Cruz is holding up the bill.

In a brief interview with The Hill, Schumer was more coy, saying only that a “presidential candidate, not to name names,” was behind the hold.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who helped forge the Flint deal, said he had heard it was Cruz but wasn’t able to confirm it was the Texas senator.

Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said, “We are simply reviewing the bill right now.”

Peters indicated there could be other holds on the legislation as well.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) added, “There are a number of holds on both the energy and on Flint. We haven’t gotten through them all. We haven’t got an agreement yet, working on it.”

Either way, lawmakers involved in negotiating the deal are confident the measure will move forward as early as next week.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said any concerns over the bill are “something we can resolve” and doesn’t involve the substance of the deal.

“It won’t change very much at all,” he said.

Negotiators this week reached an agreement on a $250 million package that would aid Flint, which is suffering a severe water quality crisis, and other parts of the country with contaminated drinking water.

The bulk of the package, $200 million, would go to expand and finance a pair of loan programs to help states and localities improve drinking water infrastructure.

The deal is tied to a major energy bill, which stalled in the Senate earlier this month when lawmakers were unable to agree on Flint aid.

Once lawmakers agree on both measures, they will come to the floor for a vote, which could happen as early as next week.

“I think there’s just some outstanding holds, but those aren’t necessarily related to the water infrastructure bill,” Peters said. “It could be related to the energy bill as well. They’re working through that right now and hopefully we’ll be in a better position next week.”

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who lives in and represents Flint, said he hopes Cruz and other senators have good intentions.

“The hope, of course, is that they’re doing it for some tactical purpose that they will later reveal. If it’s because they disagree with help for Flint, I think that’s pretty sad,” he said Thursday.

“I think in the long run, we should be ok. I hope, anyway.”

Timothy Cama contributed.