In an almost miraculous display of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate have agreed on a $250 million aid package to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
There’s at least one problem, however: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
According to a report in Politico, Cruz is halting movement of the bill “to give him more time to study the details of the proposal.” The Republican presidential candidate placed a so-called “soft hold” on the aid package on Thursday, Politico reported, effectively preventing it from moving to the floor for a vote.
Cruz spokesperson Rachael Slobodien reportedly said the Texas senator’s hold on the aid package would not be permanent. In addition, the House has not yet taken action on an identical bill, and is not expected to until next month, if it does at all.
The bipartisan proposal — put forth by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — would provide $100 million to address Flint’s lead-contaminated pipes, and $70 million in loans to fix the city’s water infrastructure, among other things. While Politico noted that other Republican senators may also have placed holds on the aid bill, Cruz’s hold is the only one that’s been reported so far.
For now, as the Senate and House continue to deliberate, each day that passes is another one without federal aid for Flint, a city of almost 100,000 people that has been in a state of emergency since January due to lead contamination in its drinking water system. The prolonged lead exposure is widely expected to have long-lasting health effects on Flint’s residents, who are disproportionately poor and African-American compared to other parts of Michigan.
In comments to Politico, Sen. Stabenow speculated that Cruz’s hold on the bill might hurt his campaign for president — at least when it comes to her state. Michigan’s presidential primary is scheduled for March 8.
More about the fight over the Senate aid package can be found here.