WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans quietly closed a year-long investigation into Flint, Michigan’s crisis over lead in its drinking water, faulting both state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency for contamination that has affected nearly 100,000 residents.
In letters to fellow Republicans, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Friday that Michigan and federal officials were slow in detecting high levels of lead in the water and did not act fast enough once the problem was discovered.
The committee findings offer no new information and essentially summarize what emerged during several high-profile hearings earlier this year.
WATCH: How and why we need to get the lead out of our lives
“The committee found significant problems at Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and unacceptable delays in the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the crisis,” wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “The committee also found that the federal regulatory framework is so outdated that it sets up states to fail.”
Flint’s drinking water became tainted when the city switched from the Detroit water system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. The impoverished city was under state control at the time.
Regulators failed to ensure the water was treated properly and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply.
Chaffetz cites “a series of failures at all levels of government” that “caused and then exacerbated the water crisis.”
While the Republican chairman signaled the apparent conclusion of the inquiry — Congress ended its session last week for a three-week holiday break — the panel’s senior Democrat insisted the investigation continues and accused Michigan’s Republican governor of stonewalling the committee over documents related to the Flint water crisis.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, senior Democrat on the oversight panel, said he wants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to produce key Flint-related documents within 30 days. Cummings said Snyder and his administration have obstructed the committee’s investigation into the Flint crisis for a year, refusing to provide — or even search for — key documents.
Snyder’s intransigence has thwarted committee efforts to answer critical questions about what he knew as the crisis unfolded and why he didn’t act sooner to fix Flint’s water problem, Cummings said.
“Requiring Governor Snyder to finally comply with the committee’s request will allow us to complete our investigation and offer concrete findings and recommendations to help prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again,” Cummings wrote to Chaffetz. “In contrast, allowing Governor Snyder to flout the committee’s authority will deny the people of Flint the answers they deserve.”
It’s highly unlikely Republicans who control Congress will continue the inquiry next year.
A spokeswoman for Snyder said the governor’s office has provided the committee with hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and the committee has wrapped up its investigation.
“In Michigan, we are working hard each day to continue Flint’s full recovery with funding for pipe replacement and health care for residents,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said, adding that it is “not productive to spend time engaging in partisan political attacks from out-of-state politicians” such as Cummings.
After nearly a year of haggling, Congress cleared legislation last week to provide $170 million to deal with the Flint crisis and help other communities with lead-tainted water.
In his letters, Chaffetz asked GOP lawmakers to consider redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars now targeted to fighting climate change to upgrade the nation’s drinking water pipes and other infrastructure. Chaffetz also asked for closer congressional oversight of the EPA, which monitors lead and copper pipes nationwide.
Is it just me, or is it weird that a relatively small group of people receiving the absolute best, taxpayer-funded, healthcare are voting to eliminate taxpayer-funded minimal healthcare coverage for 20+million people? – The Mad Sonneteer
Seeking to prevent another live-streaming “viral video moment” from
taking place on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, House
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has introduced a rules package that would
fine and punish lawmakers for recording photos and video from the floor.
The move comes in response to Democratic lawmakers, who in June live-streamed a sit-in
on the House floor over gun control legislation. Democrats organized
the sit-in to protest Republican lawmakers’ decision not to bring to the
floor a gun-control bill, which if passed would have broadened
background checks and prevented people on no-fly lists from buying guns.
When the House turned off
the cameras inside the chambers during the sit-in, the participating
lawmakers turned to live-streaming services such as Periscope and
Facebook Live to broadcast the sit-in, which spanned for 25 hours. The
live-streams, which attracted considerable publicity and millions of
views, were in turn broadcast live on C-SPAN and other TV networks,
which had lost access to live video when the House cameras were shut
Ryan, who at the time called the protest a “publicity
stunt,” faced criticism for not penalizing the lawmakers for using their
mobile phones and for taking photographs during the protest. Through a
spokesperson, Ryan said the proposed rules package “will help ensure
that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so
lawmakers can do the people’s work.”
The proposal, which was first reported
by Bloomberg News, would fine House members for using a device to
record audio or video from the House chamber floor. Lawmakers would be
fined $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for each subsequent
violation. The fines would be deducted from members’ paychecks.
rules would also mean some lawmakers would be referred to the Committee
on Ethics and could face other penalties for certain disruptive
A final version of the proposed rules package is set to be voted on Jan. 3.
The House GOP leadership reeeaaalllllly doesn’t like when they can’t control
what the American people get to see and hear from the House floor.
Unconstitutional? Yeah, it’s a clear violation of the First Amendment. It’s also unethical as anything, and removes transparency of government.
But challenging it would involve a lawsuit – no doubt be one of hundreds which will be keeping the ACLU busy for the next several years – and the federal courts will be
increasingly stacked with Trump
appointees (due to 100+ vacancies left by GOP
obstructionism over the past eight years).
Republicans on a small, but powerful House Committee voted Monday night to gut Congress’ independent ethics watchdog, prohibiting the group from doing much of its investigative work without approval from a committee of House members, whom the group is in charge of policing, and from making their findings public. The full House will decide what to do with the amendment — which was tossed into a much larger package that usually passes — on Tuesday. Here’s what House Republicans say the Office of Congressional Ethics should stop doing:
1. The OCE should no longer be independent. Instead, it will be under the House’s Committee on Ethics, which is run by members of Congress. An earlier version of the amendment read that OCE would be “subject to the authority and direction” of the committee, but that language was later softened.
2. The office will no longer be able to accept anonymous tips from whistleblowers.
3. The ethics office must stop any investigation if the House ethics committee tells them to.
4. The ethics office cannot investigate any tips on misconduct that took place before Jan. 3, 2011.
5. The office can no longer talk about its findings — even hire a spokesperson.
6. OCE cannot investigate any criminal cases or turn allegations of corruption over to law enforcement.