Mikulski Calls on Senate to Act on Flint Lead Crisis
** VIDEO / AUDIO AVAILABLE **
NOTE TO ASSIGNMENT EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: Senator Mikulski’s remarks are available for broadcast quality download.
Audio of Senator Mikulski’s remarks is available – here.
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today took to the Senator floor to call for action on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Senator Mikulski’s statement, as delivered, follows:
“Mr. President, I rise today to add my heartfelt and impassioned voice to call for action to help the people who live in Flint, Michigan. To help them with this emergency situation. And that we have to be in it, to deal with the emergency today, and the long haul for tomorrow.
“This is of catastrophic, almost Armageddon, proportions. An American city has been poisoned because of a situation that has been self-induced and self-inflicted. What is happening in Flint, Michigan is appalling. It is a tragedy. It is a disgrace. And it will be for a long time. We need to fix the pipes right away, but the fixing of the human beings is going to take a long, long time.
“Now, let’s get real. We are now bogged down in parliamentary inertia. We are now bogged down in Washington wonky budgeteer talk, ‘Where’s the offsets?’ What is this? Are we human beings?
“We take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, but sometimes an enemy is a tragedy. It comes from God knows, a hurricane or tornado. We rush in to help. And if this had been a terrorist attack, we would be willing to go to war to defend America.
“Well we need to go to the edge of our chair to help Flint. The Senators from Michigan are looking for $400 million. That is no small amount of money. But I bring to my colleagues’ attention, that this is the price of four F-35s. Four F-35s that are supposed to protect America. But right now, I think the people of Michigan would say they would like to have the help that they need. If we are talking about a threat to the people, the threat is here.
“We’ve got to deal with this. As Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee, I say to my colleagues, guess what gang, all this budgeteer stuff, all the battles with sequester, and so on, we have only $800 million for safe drinking water. Less than a billion dollars.
“Flint, today, is asking for $400 million. We know it’s a down payment. I say to my colleagues in Michigan, this could happen in any state. Our infrastructure is not only aging in place, it is becoming dysfunctional in place and it is becoming dangerous in place.
“The horror stories Senators Stabenow and Peters have already shared - gosh you’ve done a great job speaking up for the people. I really compliment your advocacy. But you know what? We’re all Flint. We’re all Flint. And the facts will speak for themselves as you talk about how the Flint water is contaminated because its pipes are permanently damaged. I understand that replacing Flint’s corroded water infrastructure will cost anywhere from $700 million to $1.5 billion – approximately 500 miles of old iron pipe and thousands of lead service lines. It is a big cost.
“But I want to speak about the children. I want to speak about the people. My gosh, what are you going through? You can’t run a family on bottled water. You can’t run a business on bottled water. You can’t run a city on bottled water. I don’t know how you wash. I don’t know how you take care of your children. I wouldn’t go anywhere in Flint unless I personally prepared my food, or washed my clothes, or saw what I was doing. I’d be scared to death. And I bet those parents are too. We need to get there.
“Now I want to talk about the children and the human cost. I say to my colleagues, both from Michigan and here, Senator Cardin and I know a lot about lead poising. We have lived through really difficult problems in Baltimore because of a legacy of paint used during World War II. We know what it does. It lowers IQs. It causes significant developmental delays, and you have behavioral issues, including attention deficit disorder. It is a lifetime. That little boy or girl that is six-years old, God willing that they live until their eighties, unless there are incredible medical breakthroughs, they’re going to carry this in their blood for the rest of their lives.
“What I knew about lead paint in Baltimore goes back to my days in the City Council, where the paint was from the forties. They were coming into Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical Center, kids just so sick. I remember a story about a little boy who was so weak and depleted, on his way to school he laid down in the middle of the street. He was so depleted because of the consequences of lead paint.
“That’s why I support the amendment to provide $800 million in loans and grants. Also to provide $20 million to the Department of Health and Human Services to bring together the best thinking and to have the best response to the human infrastructure.
“I’ve worked on this issue for a long time, going back to Senator Kit Bond, my pal and partner, when we had the VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. Senator Bond was a real champion on this - so this can be a bipartisan solution. And let’s make it an American solution. This isn’t about you and it’s not about the Democrats. It’s about us. As the Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, I want to work with my colleagues on how to do this.
“Let’s get the lead out of the pipes. Let’s get the lead out of the water. Let’s get lead out of the way the Senate is functioning, and move to begin to make a down payment on this.
“Mr. President, I really want us to understand we’ve got to solve this problem. And I’m going to conclude with this. I just want to say something to the mothers of America. We need you right now. The mothers of Flint need you. The fathers of Flint need you. The mothers and fathers of Flint need you. If you are a mother and father anywhere, you could be a mother or father in Flint. Let’s organize ourselves in the most effective way to solve this problem. And let’s begin to deal with critical infrastructure so we begin to prevent this from happening in any other American city.”
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