Flint Dem Congressman: GOP White House Hopefuls Have ‘Written Off’ Water Crisis Victims

Gov. Rick Snyder speaks about the Flint water crisis during a press conference on Jan. 27, 2016, at City Hall in downtown, Flint, Mich. (Jake May /The Flint via AP)

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said Republican presidential candidates should be more outspoken about the Flint water crisis and questioned the motive behind their lack of criticism for Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.).

“Marco Rubio said he wasn’t fully briefed on the Flint water crisis. I mean, had he turned on a television or read a newspaper? Donald Trump said he shouldn’t comment on this crisis but he criticized the EPA – blamed the EPA. Jeb Bush has said Governor Rick Snyder is a proven leader and as he said, the best problem solver. Well, I don’t think there’s anybody in Michigan who would agree with that characterization. You just can’t make this up,” Kildee said during a conference call late last week.

“If Flint were 57 percent white and not 57 percent black, you wonder whether or not the kind of callous indifference that’s being shown – not just by our state government but by Republican candidates who won’t even speak up for a whole population of 100,000 people who are facing a serious crisis. You wonder if they are prepared to be national leaders if they can’t speak up for the people of Flint and you wonder why they won’t,” he added.

In Iowa on Jan. 18, Rubio said he had not been briefed on the crisis but he commented on the issue in New Hampshire on Jan. 21.

“There was a significant government breakdown in terms of when they switched the power – the water source to a lake that was known to be polluted and unfortunately now we have people that are facing this terrible situation with potential lead poisoning and all sorts of things,” he said. “It’s a very – a systemic and ugly breakdown at the local and state level. The governor has acknowledged that.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reacted to the water crisis in Flint, calling it a failure at every level of government.

“It is a failure of the city officials, it is a failure of the county officials, it is a failure of the state officials and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed,” he said.

Kildee criticized Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz, appointed by Gov. Snyder in 2012, for his decision not to use the city’s river for drinking water. The decision was reportedly made after Kurtz consulted with Michigan’s environmental protection agency.

“It was a set of state decisions by state officials that led to this crisis,” he said.

Kildee argued that the Republican presidential candidates’ handling of this crisis is emblematic of their entire agenda.

“They don’t put struggling Americans on their agenda. They don’t think about the interests of these people. They have essentially written off folks like the people who live in Flint even in this terrible crisis that they face,” he said.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the House Judiciary Committee ranking member, said there needs to be as “much intervention as possible” in Flint at this time.

He also called for a “top to bottom” investigation into the crisis to find out what went wrong.

“I want to work closely with you Congressman Kildee in making sure we not only get to the bottom of this but make sure it doesn’t happen again, and I salute you for your steadfastness in this tragic circumstance,” he said.

Democratic National Committee Black Caucus Chairwoman Virgie Rollins vowed to work hard to elect a Dem president in 2016 to help communities like Flint.

“I’m not surprised Republicans have had such a callous response to black children and a crisis,” she said. “Rather than lift up those who need it the most, they focus on proposals to help those who are already ahead.”