WASHINGTON – The House passed its Water Resources Development Act, which would authorize $170 million to help address Flint, Mich.'s drinking water crisis.
House members voted 399 to 24 for the bill late Wednesday after a Flint funding amendment was included. Republicans had initially resisted the amendment, saying funds should come from the local government.
But Democrats blocked a vote on the continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through December until a deal was reached to include Flint money in the WRDA. The House's passage of the water bill with Flint aid comes two weeks after the Senate passed its version of WRDA, which includes $220 million in federal funding to aid Flint or any other community experiencing a water crisis.
Congress is expected to recess this week until Nov. 14, after the election. After the recess, Senate and House conferees will work toward a final bill and negotiate level of federal funds for Flint.
Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who introduced the water bill in the Senate, said the House's bipartisan vote "is a clear sign" that Congress can reconcile the House and Senate bills "swiftly and smoothly."
"We are confident that Congress will send to the president's desk this year another robust bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will grow the economy, improve public safety, and restore ecosystems while also providing support to communities facing failing water and wastewater infrastructure," the two Senators said.
The House bill's passage drew praise from several organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which said Thursday that Flint will "finally be able to receive much needed relief."
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said the authorization of WRDA is "crucial" to address U.S. water resources infrastructure needs, and that he hopes it can be put back on an every two-year cycle for the first time since 2000.