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tv   Senate Democrats on Flint Michigan Water Contamination  CSPAN  January 28, 2016 8:00pm-8:35pm EST

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meeting i just want to emphasize how resilient the people of flint are. they are proud, they love their community and their families. they just need our help. we all know that this was, literally a man-made crisis. it is as much as a catastrophe as any other kind of crisis, and very personal when in fact you are trying to get drinking water or cook, or bathed bathe in the water looks like that. the problem is, and many places it still looks like that. it has been months and months. yesterday, folks could not shower, last night some of said you cannot shower and bottled water, and that is true. you cannot create a healthy environment for your children to bathe. people in flint need the dignity and respect they deserve for
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knowing that clean water will come out of the faucet. that that involves action that needs to happen. again, we know where this falls in terms of responsibility for decisions made. that does not take away from the fact the people of flint are counting on everybody to step up and do what we can. we think the president for his actions and we know that there is more that needs to be done. therefore, we are proposing on the energy bill in front of us a four-part amendment. senator peters will talk about two decisions, i will, i want to thank senator schumer and reed, all of those in our caucus. we have 100% of support of people saying what can we do to help. when we put help.
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when we put together the amendment we had technical expertise from every part of our caucus in terms of ranking members and committees as well as the white house. we are very grateful for the quick response in helping us. let me go through the first two parts. bottom line, these pipes have got to be fixed or replaced. the governor asked in a letter to the president that there be emergency appropriations, emergency designation that would allow the $800 million that he believe is needed to fix this to be provided. we are proposing that we come up with basically half of the dollars and matched dollar for dollar with an emergency appropriation of up to $400 million that would match dollar for dollar what the state spends as well. this could be done as quickly as possible. the second thing is that we know there's long-term damage. it is so heartbreaking to talk to moms and dads, and kids, that
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are so afraid of what is going to happen. there are 9000 children under the age of six who may be exposed in a very serious way, we do not know yet in terms of lead exposure. 9000 children just under the age of six and a community of 100,000 people. we know from the people that we trust, doctor mona, who is a courageous pediatrician that determined what was happening and stood up to the governor even though they attacked her for her results. she is the one who did the original led testing. she and community experts are wanting us to support a center for excellence for lead exposure that would allow both monitoring of what happens to children, coordinating coordinating
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services around nutrition, healthcare, education, providing the public forums of information and quite frankly providing long-term research because we have not seen this kind of levels of exposure before. there is a lot of questions about impact. heaven help us is there is ever an emergency like this again. the people of flint want to be able to help those in the future. to re-untran through research and information gathering about what is happening in the best ways to handle it. we are proposing a $200 million center of excellence on lead exposure. those two items coupled with the two that senator peters will talk about are an appropriate response from the federal government. we hope that we'll have colleagues on both sides of the aisle with us. i have talked with senator murkowski, i am appreciative of her interest, we need to get this done. the people of flint have waited way too long.
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senator peters. >> thank you senator seven a and thank you for your leadership and work on this. i also want to thank all of my colleagues that are here, senator schumer and the leadership of the caucus as well as my colleagues who are here and support. we are all united in understanding this is an issue we need to deal with. as. as senator seven i mentioned, it is one in which is of emergency needs to be done quickly. unfortunately this crisis crisis has gone on too far. the state was aware of issues for far too many months before any action was taken taken. before i talk about two provisions of the amendment that we are going to offer, i want to reiterate is very clear that this is a state of michigan problem. the government of the state of michigan created this catastrophe. they had a state appointed appointed emergency manager who is looking to save some money by going to the flint river as the source of water, moving away from lake huron and
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the great lakes to go to the flint river. a highly corrosive river, in, in fact general motors used water from the flint river but then decided they did not want to use it anymore because it was corroding the engine block. so this water was not good enough for the manufacturing process because of its corrosive nature, yet the state appointed emergency manager uses water as trinket water for the residence. at the at the same time he did not put in the chemicals necessary to deal with that highly corrosive water which then started eating away at the pipes, many old lead pipes as a result of an old community as people were ingesting this to incredibly high levels. so ultimately the fix is multifaceted. we have to look at the health of the people of flint, the, the education particularly for children impacted, we also need to look at infrastructure. senator seven i talked about the
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funds that would be matching state money which is critical. we know we have to pull out fightspipes will have to replace infrastructure. it is a state responsibility first informants formosa they need to be put in the first money. the federal will help supplemented. along those lines, the third element of the amendment which will be introduced deals with helping flint pay off interest as well as have some of their state drinking water revolving fund loans being forgiven. this is a fairly technical fix. right now revolving funds can be forgiven if they are forgiven within one year in which they had been given. these were funds that were loaned to the city of went over many years, because of the way the laws right now they cannot have those funds forgiven. when you think about it, doesn't make any sense for the city of flint, who, who is struggling right now to have to be paying for a water system that the state of michigan basically broke.
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why would the city of flint be obligated to be paying for this water system that has a bank corroded away because of this highly corrosive water that the state of michigan has put forward. we are asking those loans can be forgiven, it was a technical fix. they should be able to do that we believe it's roughly $20 million of loans that will be forgiven. that money will then be made available for the city of went to invest in new infrastructure that will provide clean water. the fourth aspect of the bill picks up the bill that senator seven i and i introduce yesterday. it'll be introduced in the house next week. that deals with notification of epa. the thing that is troubling, as a state of michigan is conducting these tests and in fact they were cooking the books
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on the test, not really putting out the information as to what they were seen in those tests. the epa became aware of some of those tests, they became aware of the fact that they were not putting in the proper chemicals into the water to bind the metals in the pipes. they insisted the state of michigan did that. they repeatedly said that. unfortunately the state did not take that action. unfortunately the epa do not believe they have the authority to go public with this. the law says you have to work with the state. the state has the primary responsibility to provide clean drug and water to the people. you have to work through the state. they thought there is ambiguity in the law that prevented them from going public even though they saw the test results. that is unacceptable. we cannot allow that to happen so we will clarify the law so that it says if the epa does find out, or believe there is information the public needs to know, there needs to be additional accountability and if that state or local agency is not releasing the information, the epa must do it within 15 days after receiving that information.
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there will not be any ambiguity, this is about poultry and spare is a. the people have a right to know and we're going to clarify that in this amendment. before i turn it over to senator schumer, i want want to highlight that this is just one aspect of a bright if things were doing at the federal level. one aspect that is important in dealing with the children that senator seven i mentioned, we know the effects of lead at a very young age impedes brain development. wraparound services is going to be important and one program that is critical is headstart. headstart helps children prior to going to school. of the 6000 eligible children in flint that are eligible for headstart only about 4000 are attending. the other aspect we are pleased the governor took up the recommended was to ask for
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business loans, disaster loans. we have a situation with small businesses in flint that has been impacted as a result. particularly restaurants. people don't want to go to the restaurant without asking the question about what water did you use. it is having a devastating impact on local businesses. its resident, business, every fabric every fabric of the community is being impacted. it is going to take a comprehensive approach which were doing. however, this amendment is critical to a period without fixing the infrastructure we're not going to have a long-term fix. this is not a partisan issue, this is not a democratic issue, this is not a republican issue, this is about the people of flint and more specifically the children of flint were crying for help, who need help. we have we have the ability to do it, we need to step up, we look forward to having a strong bipartisan support. i will now turn it over to senator schumer. >> thank you.
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let me first, and i think i'll be joined by all the people of flint and michigan by thinking senators staten island peters for their amazing leadership. they have been have been out front on this issue from the beginning pushing every level of government to move forward to help the people of flint and get this crisis the first in hand and then undone. they have done a great job. the people of flint and the people of michigan are lucky to have senators staten island peters fighting on their behalf. now let's make no mistake about this, what we are seeing in flint, michigan is a man-made crisis, plain and simple. the state's appointed emergency manager made a decision to take water from the flint river from too old and decrepit pipe rather than using the city of detroit system. they managed to save a few million, but at what cost? now, more than 100,000 people in flint do not have drink in water, they not have drink and water, they cannot use the water from the price which are
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corroding. thousands of young children have led courses through their veins. to a consequence, consequence, we know not good for sure. this is happening in the united states, not in a third world country on the other side of the the globe, in the united states. that is disgraceful. the whole country needs to be and together along with the state of michigan to solve this humanitarian crisis as quickly as possible. this as possible. this amendment is immediate, the need is immediate, and putting it on the energy bill is timely and appropriate and we hope we will get bipartisan and broad support. that is what senators stop and on on and peters have been working for. they do not want any political victory, they need the help. we welcome our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us quickly on this issue. the amendment provides the kinds of large resources that are desperately needed, at the same
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time it holds the state of michigan accountable. i think it is very appropriate that there is a dollar for dollar match. yes, the federal government will step in but michigan has to step up to the plate to, particularly given the state's role in the governor and appoint his role in the crisis. as senator said last night, confidence and trust in state officials is low in michigan and the federal government needs to step in to get a handle on the crisis. we are begging, pleading with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to help us solve this in a bipartisan way. the four pieces of the legislation deal with things that we need, accountability and transparency in government. we cannot hide what government does, whether it is at the federal, state, city level. we do need an active government to help do need an active government to help people when they need help. there is no substitute here. there is no private sector that will come in and help. we know that. so that is why this legislation is appropriate, american
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citizens are lacking clean, drinkable drinkable water, nothing should get in the way of solving that problem, not partisan politics, not intergovernmental squabbles, nothing. we should passes the we should passes a minute quickly and get the relief and the clean water flowing to flint as quickly as we can. senator casey. >> i want to thank the senators and the caucus in our colleagues here with us today. this issue, when it comes to the children of flint where the children of america, when it comes to the issue of lead poisoning or in some cases elevated lead levels, i believe it is a matter of basic justice. hundreds of years ago saint augustine said without justice water kingdoms but great bands of robbers. if we apply that to today when
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it comes to government, without justice what are -- when you don't take action you have robbed a child of his or her future, you have robbed her of basic justice. every child, no matter where they live should have a right to expect, and the family should have a right to expect that they can drink clean water. that is that asking too much of their government. local, state, or federal. it causes me, and i think a lot of us to examine what is happening in our own states. we are getting information now from communities in pennsylvania, some pennsylvania, some of it by way of the press and good reporting, some of it by just looking at data. i was looking at county by county data for pennsylvania today, here's just one number to consider, which is a nationwide number.
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at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead, according to the cdc. we have a lot of work to do on this. maybe not in circumstances where it is a water problem, it may be children who live in communities where there are old houses and lead paint. that number unfortunate fortunately has gone way down. experts tell us that back in the mid- 70s until the 1980s that level was higher. the so-called micro- granted leader. it was 15 and now it's 1.2. we know that with good policy and was determined effort we can bring these efforts down. 1.2 is not good enough. a county in pennsylvania, sullivan county is about 3.2 or higher. that is not good enough. we have we have to bring all of
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these numbers down. whether it is let in the soil, let in the household, let in the water, like we see in the tragic nightmare flint. i think flint as a wake-up call of a broader issue. we stand ready to do that and to do more. thank you. senator whitehouse is next. >> thank you. as someone with a long in the battle against childhood lead poisoning and a fair number of scars to show for it, i wanted to join the senators today to show my solidarity with them and with the people of flint. the point that was made, you all who cover washington see exactly the same thing that we see which
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is a persistent and very well-funded campaign to degrade environmental protections. on virtually every front. what we can too often forget in this building, where special interests have such to play, is that on the receiving end of a degraded environmental protection capability, our american families. they are the kids in flint. they are not big shots, they do not have a boat, but they sure as heck are entitled to drinkable water that water that is not poisoning them and damaging their brain development. so as bob said, this is not only a message of solidarity to flint and to michigan, it is also a call to rethink the relentless antagonism to environmental protection that is so often the feature of this building area to
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remember the children of flint, not just as children of flint but as a signal to all of us that we have to stand firm and protect the planet that we love. thank you. >> thank you so much. i also want to thank other senators for being here. it has been heartwarming to see, the minute that people became aware of us, the call staroffice and people asked how they can help. this is how we can help. we are happy to take questions. >> will republican support this amendment. >> i talked with senator murkowski and i know they are provisions that they are supportive of. we are working working on that today and will keep working on it. we are doing something that is very reasonable, it makes sense,
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it is responding to an incredible emergency and i hope. [inaudible] >> we want to vote. so we will work very hard to get that vote. i am assuming assuming will be able to do that. >> you talked about epa and they admit -- are you looking at the responsibility of epa. >> let me just say as a backdrop on this, from a public health emergency standard on lead, we have been told that we have not seen a local or state government response like what happened in flint. the scientists went in from the epa to determine lead levels were through the roof, not 100 times higher, some case
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thousands of times higher beyond what we would have for some other kind of disaster from the environmental standpoint. they go to the state, now you would assume that the state would go oh my gosh, what can we do? no, they attacked the scientists. then they fought with the epa for months and months, then when doctor mona came forward as a pediatrician to verify blood levels, they attacked her. when. when they're going back and forth with the epa, i think it is also important because look at what was happening in washington. massive attacks to eliminate the epa. the house dramatically cut the drinking water state revolving loan fund. we are able in the senate to get that back up, although it was still dashmac's all of this is happening. i'm not excusing any of it.
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from our standpoint they should have come forward. we want want to make it absolutely clear that the state and, heaven forget. we have another situation where the state does not respond, that if they do not, the epa has 15 days and i have to go public. if that is happening in other places that you're talking about them this amendment amendment will help that as well. >> initially they do not fully embraces, cursed to know if you're prepared to block this bill from going forward if it's filibustered, what will you do if they don't accept it. >> we feel very strongly that will move forward. we have not yet made that decision. this is very serious. >> everything about breaking apart the amendment you have four separate cases, the the
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supple package or could you piece it apart. >> all four are very important, we'll be working with colleagues to figure that out. >> the mayor said it could cost as much as $1 trillion to do this you are estimating lower. >> what we are doing is the estimate that came from others outside of michigan was if all of the pipes were replaced. that may need to happen. the the state, the governor, sent a letter to the president that asks for about $800 million. so that's a good place to start. >> i think it is important as we mentioned, this is a state responsibility.
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the state broke it, they need to fix it. we're going to try to help in any way we can buy 400,000,000 would be that help, certainly the state may need to put in more than the 400, it will be matched up to that. probably the major vulnerability for folks is actually the service lines from the mainline into their house. flint is an older community built with lead pipes, what we have this highly corrosive water without the chemicals in it to neutralize some of it, the basically destroyed many of those service lines which will have to be replaced. we believe the 400 or 800 million would cover that. the question is is it some of the other mainlines we have to deal with. certainly what it looks like the critical problem is service lines, this would be sufficient, at this point, we still have to do an evaluation, it looks like that would cover those service line and then we'd have to look at the whole system. the other aspect of this is the stage ranking water revolving fund, to free up the $20 million for other sorts of services. >> there's a conference call
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last week with the congressman said you have to wonder if this crisis would of happened in a majority, white city, they're focused of course on the national republican and the response would have been different. can you talk about, do see race playing a component in the reaction response to this? >> let's just say, i don't wonder at all. there is no doubt in my mind. that one of the governor supporters in a wealthy part of michigan called up and said our water looks like this, it smells, our children are taking baths and getting rashes, people are losing their hair, i do not think it would be very long at all before it was fixed. >> you have to look -- to me you
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have a different form of governance in the city of flint. you have an unelected emergency manager which is different than if you have an elected official. you. you have a state appointing manager to reduce costs at all costs, when you have an emergency manager which is not held accountable to the citizens, if, if you had an elected mayor, and elected mayor is going to listen to his or her citizens about this. the city council, they did not have power. the power was all in an unelected emergency manager that was put in place. i think it's important for people to realize that the people of the state of michigan actually voted against the emergency manager form of government. we had a state state referendum, it was eliminated but they then went back, tweak the law little bit and put it in again to have the emergency manager circumventing the will of the voters of the state of michigan to put an unelected person and was only looking at the bottom line.
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when you only look at the bottom line and at the welfare of the people in that community, this is what you get. >> just -underscore one thing on the bottom line, for $100 per day, this is according to doctor mark, one of the other heroes here from virginia tech, for $100 per day this would not have happened. [inaudible] >> from my perspective there has to be accountability. the u.s. at tourney in michigan is looking at this, there's a a number of investigations going on. our focus is is on helping the families of flint right now. i believe that will be sorted out. i believe it needs to happen. right now, the water looks like this or anything close to it, we we have a public health emergency here. we need all hands on deck. >> the president earlier this month asked and stopped in detroit but not in flint.
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>> images say the president of the united states acted immediately when the governor finally asked for an emergency declaration. within days money was sent to michigan to help flint, in talking to him yesterday he recommitted, the entire administration has said they will do everything they can to help. doctor murray is on the ground from the department of health and human services, she is terrific, she, she is meeting with the community and making recommendations on what can be done in terms of a federal response. right now when we look at this, our president of the united states has done more to help flint, then the governor. i'm not worried about that. >> wife followed the matching
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funds approach with the distrust with a government? who is to say that they will authorize the state fund. >> first of all i hope the governor is going to do a lot to get this done. i hope he will call the leader in the speaker of the house and indicate this needs to get done. in addition to a rainy day fund in the state, they just announced $600 million, new surplus. the governor is is about ready to put out his budget. they have the resources if they have the will. what we are saying is, because this needs to happen for the families of flint, we believe in what happened here, this is as much a national crisis as a hurricane, turnout, or flood in terms of what happened to people
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in flint, michigan. we believe it is appropriate for the federal government to match the states action, but the states action, but not to replace the state action. >> the governor has said that the state has responsibility. unfortunately has not match that with enough resources. he has announced $28 million, i believe everybody believes that is a significantly less than what is going to be necessary. he has come to the federal government asked for resources from the federal government. we are meeting him they're saying here are resources, the state of michigan has primary responsibility, is clear to everyone, the governor has said that. that is why we will need his help as a republican governor to help us with our colleagues in the senate to get this money. we can all come together but i do not want this to become a republican, democratic issue. this is, democratic issue. this is about bipartisan, this about children, about public emergency and a core fundamental issue for everybody. which is in this great country of ours, you should be able to have clean drinking water. that is a fundamental right.
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this should not be a democratic or republican issue. but you have a republican government that we look for to working within washington and getting his help to convince our republican colleagues that we need to come together. >> take you very much. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] >> on the next washington journal, david, former political columnist for the des moines register previous the presidential campaign heading into the final weekend before
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the iowa caucuses. republican, i was state senator discusses his endorsement of donald trump. his efforts to get supporters to caucus for the republican presidential candidate. bob vander plots, looks at the role of social conservatives in the 2016 campaign. as always, we'll take your calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. washington. "washington journal", live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> the weekend prior to the caucuses, there'll be a frenzy of activity across iowa. there so many candidates on the republican side, there are three candidates on the democratic side, each of them will have three - six events-six events per day. we will be looking for the events that give you a sense of what it is like to campaign for the caucuses. keep in mind, what is key's organization. you need organization. you need to make sure those people who support you get to
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the caucuses. it is going to be interesting to see how the candidates are trying to close the deal, sell their message, and convince those people who might still be on the fence to go for candidate air candidate be. what what you'll see is essentially wall-to-wall coverage on c-span as these candidates make their final pitches. >> c-span this weekend, live coverage of the presidential candidates in iowa. >> army general john nicholson is the presence nominee to be the next commander in military operations afghanistan. at a hearing he talked about the security challenges in afghanistan and the u.s. strategy in the region. this hearing is one and half hours.

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