But last week, two South Dakota public officials voted to deprive Flint and other American cities of the money they need to clean up their water:
On a 48-49 vote, the Senate defeated a proposal put forward by U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., to end the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan (ATVM) program, which was created in 2007 to help pay for research into more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, but has seen limited success with only five loans issued in that time — two of which defaulted.
…Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich., objected, however, noting that the ATVM program funds have already been targeted as a possible source of funding for legislation to pay for water infrastructure improvements in Flint and across the nation.
Stabenow, Peters and several other U.S. senators — including Republicans and Democrats — more than a month ago worked out a deal to provide at least $100 million in grants or loans to Flint, where high levels of lead have been detected in the water supply. The plan would also free up millions more for low-interest financing for water projects across the U.S. and for public health services related to lead poisoning.
That bipartisan proposal has still not passed the Senate — U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has put a hold on the bill, complaining that it gives the federal government too much authority over local water projects. But if Coats had succeeded in terminating the ATVM program, it could have made its eventual chances of passage even more remote [Todd Spangler, “Democrats Stop Threat to Flint Bill in U.S. Senate,” Detroit Free Press, 2016.04.21].
South Dakota’s Senators, John Thune and Mike Rounds, both voted for this effort to defund water infrastructure improvements for Flint and other American cities. They also voted for a separate amendment to defund enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Luckily, that amendment also failed.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid puts the votes of Thune, Rounds, and their party in proper persepctive:
Republicans have proven once again that they are willing to turn their backs on the people of Flint. Every time the Senate comes close to a bipartisan compromise to help children suffering from lead poisoning, Republicans find an excuse to back away. Today, Republicans voted to remove a funding source for legislation to tackle Flint’s water crisis without offering a single dime to clean their poisoned water. More than 100,000 people – including 9,000 children under the age of six – have been poisoned in the city of Flint, and it is unconscionable that Republicans would attempt to deny them the support they desperately need.
Sadly, Republicans are happy to attack clean energy programs to please the Koch brothers, but they remain unwilling to lift a finger to help the people of Flint. I call on Republicans to end this unwarranted obstruction and protect the people of Flint and millions throughout the nation [Senator Harry Reid, press release, 2016.04.21].
A natural disaster floods Mike Rounds and his country-club pals out of the houses they built in the Missouri River flood plain, and Senator Rounds goes all trumpety-boo demanding government action to better protect him from dangerous water. But a hundred thousand Americans get lead poisoning from bad water, and he and John Thune vote as if the federal government has no business meddling in folks’ water woes.