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Democrats Blast GOP Senators for Vote Against Flint

DSCC links obscure amendment to fixes to water pipes

The campaign arm for Senate Democrats is accusing a long list of vulnerable Republicans of undercutting efforts to provide aid to Flint, Mich.  

DSCC National Press Secretary Lauren Passalacqua issued a series of statements criticizing senators, including Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for a vote in favor of an amendment to gut an Energy Department advanced vehicle manufacturing program.  

The money for that program could be tapped to pay infrastructure repairs in Flint, where corroded pipes are leaching lead into the water supply and exposing as many as 9,000 children to health and neurological problems.  

"Once again, Ron Johnson has put partisanship ahead of commonsense in voting to sabotage a bill that would help the people of Flint,"Passalacqua said in the missive directed at Wisconsin media. "This is exactly why Wisconsinites will turn out in November to vote for Russ Feingold, and elect someone who will focus on fighting for America’s best interests."  

The DSCC said they would be sending similar letters about other GOP senators, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. All are facing competitive races this fall.  

How Flint Became the New 9th Ward

The vote in question, which came around lunch time Thursday, was on an amendment offered by Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats that was unrelated to the toxic pipes. It was rejected 48-49, with 60 votes  needed for adoption.  

“Last month, nearly 10 years since the program's inception, the Government Accountability Office took a look at the program’s finances and found that the Department of Energy is quietly sitting on unspent funds," said Coats. "The history of this loan program suggests that the best course of action is to give the money back."  

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., says that he was working to defeat the Coats amendment to the Energy-Water spending bill to keep the money to pay for aid to Flint.  

If the Coats amendment had been adopted, Peters and fellow Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow would be forced to go back to the drawing board for another source of cash.  

The Michigan senators continue to look for legislation to serve as a vehicle for advancing further aid, but they must still overcome an objection from Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The Energy-Water spending debate will continue into next week on the Senate floor.  

"Every time the Senate comes close to a bipartisan compromise to help children suffering from lead poisoning, Republicans find an excuse to back away," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. "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."  

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.