It's official, Republicans have killed federal funding to fix Flint, Michigan's water crisis again, and again the bad guy here is Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee.
Bipartisan Senate leaders reached an agreement Wednesday on a long-stalled energy modernization bill that some had hoped would include money to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
But because the Flint provision is still the subject of a hold by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee -- who objects to the way it is funded -- the energy bill will now move on without it.
The setback is significant, because even if Lee's concerns are resolved eventually, it will likely be time-consuming and complicated to find a new legislative vehicle to pass the money for Flint.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow quickly issued a statement knocking Lee for holding up the funds, which she argues are desperately needed.
"It's totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully paid for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have serious lead and water problems," the Democrat said. "This is about something as basic as making sure families have clean water to drink and children with lead poisoning get the help they need."
"We will not give up until this gets done using whatever legislative vehicle it takes," she added.
The Flint measure would provide $250 million for repairs to its lead-leaching water lines as well as deal with the health effects on the city's residents. The money would also be available to other communities with drinking water problems.
You think Lee is going to suffer an ounce of political fallout over this in a state like Utah? He won in 2010 by nearly 30 points, and the Democrats are running Jon Swinton, a marriage therapist, against him. The one poll I can find was from a year ago and Lee would win by six. Now? Who knows, nobody in Utah seems to care about removing Lee from office.
Utah's Senate primary isn't until the end of June, so if the one remotely popular Democrat in the state, Rep. Jim Matheson is going to step in, he has plenty of time, except for the fact Matheson now has a comfy job as an energy company and payday lender lobbyist after getting clobbered by GOP Rep. Mia Love in 2014. Odds are real good Matheson isn't going anywhere.
So Sen. Lee makes the perfect bad guy here. Utahns aren't going to punish him, and Flint will continue to suffer.
And so it goes. America really doesn't seem too interested in helping Flint when "everybody needs help with my tax money" in the age of Austerity.