Ryan: Aid to address lead in Flint, MI, water on track
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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan promised Wednesday that a long-delayed aid package to help Flint, Michigan, address its lead-tainted water system is on track to pass into law by the end of the year.
The Wisconsin Republican says the $220-million aid package will be addressed "one way or the other." He said he hopes it will pass as part of a popular water projects bill, though GOP aides said it's more likely to be added to a temporary spending measure that's needed to avert a government shutdown next week.
The Flint aid issue was a major sticking point as Republicans and Democrats battled before Congress recessed for the elections. Ryan, despite earlier reservations that Flint's water problems are a local issue, has come to support federal help for the impoverished city.
Flint's drinking water became tainted when the city, then under state control, began drawing from the Flint River in 2014 to save money. Regulators failed to ensure the water was treated properly and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply. As many as 12,000 children have been exposed to lead in water, officials say.
"We are going to address Flint," Ryan said.
Ryan also said negotiations are continuing over a stopgap spending measure to keep the government running into the first months of the Trump administration. It now looks as though the measure will extend beyond the March 31 date Ryan originally envisioned, out of deference to the Senate, which is expected to have a full schedule confirming Trump Cabinet appointees and a potential Supreme Court nominee.
The stopgap spending bill, said Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is also likely to contain additional flood and hurricane relief for Louisiana and other states. President Barack Obama has officially requested $3.15 billion in community development grants as rebuilding assistance for Louisiana and other states. That's on top of $500 million approved in September.
"I'm confident it's going to be resolved," Scalise said.
The stopgap measure may contain some of the Obama administration's $11.6 billion request for additional war-related money. Republicans say Obama padded the request with nondefense spending.