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February 14, 2016

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February 12, 2016

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Visit Flint


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 7: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly on camera press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Pelosi will visit Flint next month. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Michigan House Democrats Brenda Lawrence and Dan Kildee will lead a group from Congress– including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – on a visit to Flint next month to learn about how federal resources could be devoted to addressing the water crisis there, Lawrence told Roll Call on Friday.

The March 4 trip will come amid a series of high-profile political events in the city, which has become a symbol of failing urban infrastructure and mismanagement after it was revealed that as many as 9,000 children had been poisoned for months by undisclosed lead in its drinking water. A Democratic presidential debate is scheduled there between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on March 6, two days before the Michigan and Mississippi primaries. Clinton interrupted campaigning in New Hampshire to visit the city Sunday.

“We have to see what’s going on on the ground, what will happen with federal resources we are sending there,” Lawrence said. She said the group will hold a community “speak-out,” where residents will be encouraged to share their needs. The group will include members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she said.

Almost a month after President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Flint, Congress remains split over who should bear the brunt of the responsibility and what role the federal government should play in the recovery. Republicans have focused on the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for enforcing federal safe drinking water standards. Democrats have pointed to Rick Snyder, the governor, who has apologized to Flint residents and promised to “fix” the problem.

Also on Friday, Snyder announced in a tweet that, after eluding months of calls to testify before Congress, he had changed course Friday and requested an invitation. The Republican-controlled Committee on Oversight and Government Reform promptly responded, issuing an announcement that Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy would testify at a new hearing on a date that has not been determined.

Other expected witnesses included were regional EPA administrator Susan Hedman and former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley. Hedman and Earley declined invitations to testify at the first hearing and were later issued subpoenas by the committee to provide private depositions. Those depositions are scheduled for Feb. 25 and 29, a committee spokesman said.

Flint was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its drinking water supply in 2014. The EPA identified problems with lead contamination nearly a year ago, but spend months arguing with state officials before informing the public.

The city, meanwhile, is still struggling to address basic needs, including testing children for lead poisoning and ensuring that drinking water is safe. At the same time, it must also make a plan for the long-term repercussions of the water contamination, including providing health care for the children exposed to the contaminated water and helping local businesses survive the crisis and eventually rebuilding a city that has been in turmoil for decades.

The House this week approved a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Kildee and Michigan Republican Fred Upton, that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to inform residents within 24 hours when tests show that drinking water is contaminated with lead.

But the Senate has not been able to agree on an aid package that would help Flint replace corroded pipes and support children and families exposed to lead. Stalled negotiations on that package led the Senate to shelve a bipartisan energy bill for at least two weeks.

Lawrence said that officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control briefed congressional Democrats about such concerns Friday morning.

“This has been a frustrating experience because it’s a man-made disaster.” Lawrence said. “The state has, must be held accountable for fixing this — I have not heard anyone say that we should not be providing federal sources, but where does that line go where the state steps up in responsibility for this?”

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services briefed congressional Democrats about such concerns Friday, according to a memo from the meeting. They confirmed the federal government “anticipates being able to approve,” an expansion of Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and children in Flint, among other “additional requests,” according to the memo. The Medicaid expansion would provide coverage for lead-blood level monitoring, behavioral health services and nutritional support, among other services.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are scheduled to travel to Flint next week, the memo said.

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February 11, 2016

Email Blackout Exposes Tech Problems in House


UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 29: A Senate staffer works at his desk in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate staffers couldn’t get email through to their House colleagues Tuesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Countless emails to congressional staffers went unseen for hours Tuesday afternoon because of an unexplained internal server problem, raising questions about efficiency and security of the system that House members and their staffs rely on as a primary source of communication.

House officials in charge of the email servers declined to provide basic information about the extent of the problem — including the answers to such questions as how many addresses were blocked, how long it lasted and what caused the delay — citing security concerns. Full story

February 9, 2016

Lead in the Water, Way Beyond Flint


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Testimony at the Feb. 3 hearing on Flint (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A single serving of pasta cooked with North Carolina tap water in the home of a sick baby contained more lead than a dime-sized paint chip. An increase in spontaneous abortions and miscarriages was tied to undisclosed lead in the Washington, D.C.’s drinking water. And tap water at an Ohio mobile home community was found to have three times the allowable lead levels for months before residents were informed.

As members of Congress scramble to address the lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich.,  the nation’s sprawling and aging water delivery system faces broader problems than one community’s crisis. Deteriorating infrastructure, combined with outdated government regulations, have left many places vulnerable to contaminated drinking water. Full story

February 8, 2016

Michigan Governor Declines to Testify at Flint Hearing


UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., arrives at the Capitol for the final votes before the August recess on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Kildee released a statement announcing Michigan’s governor will not testify before Congress. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The governor of Michigan has declined an invitation to testify at the second Congressional hearing on the Flint water crisis, according to a statement released Monday by Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.

Instead, Gov. Rick Snyder will spend Wednesday afternoon presenting his proposed state budget for the 2018 fiscal year in Lansing, a spokeswoman from his office said. Full story

February 4, 2016

Committee Chairs to Flesh Out Details of House Agenda


UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 3: From left, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walk to the House floor for votes on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From left, McCarthy, Chaffetz and Ryan walk to the House floor Wednesday for votes. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All 20 chairmen of the standing legislative House committees will play lead roles in developing the 2016 GOP policy agenda,  as House leaders Thursday announced details of six new task forces.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced membership of the task forces that will focus on national security, a tax code rewrite, a health care overhaul, poverty and welfare, regulations, and constitutional authority. Full story

Freedom Caucus Seeks Leverage in Budget Talks


Are House Republicans in danger of not being able to pass a budget? Not quite yet.

Many conservative Republicans, especially those in the House Freedom Caucus, are unhappy with leadership’s decision to write a Republican budget resolution with the fiscal 2017 spending level approved in last year’s budget deal. But they also say they they’re willing to get behind the plan if they can secure some other concessions in the process.

“Right now, there are a number of us who are looking for a way to get to ‘yes'; and that’s a pretty high bar to get to,” caucus member Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Roll Call. Full story

Long-Ignored Hero of Flint Water Crisis: ‘I’m Just a Mom’


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Walters, right, raised alarm bells over tainted water in Flint, Mich., but no one listened.

For months, state and federal officials ignored LeeAnne Walters’ complaints about the drinking water in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. They saw no reason to answer her, even though her son was so sick that doctors thought he had cancer and other family members, too, were losing hair and breaking out in rashes.

They didn’t respond even when Walters pointed to repeated tests by government agencies and independent scientists showing that hazardous levels of lead had leached into the water.

In fact, it was not until she started sharing an internal Environmental Protection Agency memo, confirming the high lead levels, that officials started to pay attention.

Full story

February 3, 2016

Flint Hearing: ‘What Good is the EPA?’


 

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 3: Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questions witnesses during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Chaffetz pledged to continue investigating.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Environmental Protection Agency came under sharp criticism Wednesday for failing to inform Flint, Mich., residents for nearly a year that their drinking water was contaminated with lead, and House members vowed to continuing investigating the “manmade crisis.”

“It’s important for the EPA to tell people that their water is poisoning their kids,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, shouted into his microphone at Wednesday’s hearing. “Why didn’t they do that? What good is the EPA if they can’t do that.”

Full story

Outrage, Apologies and Subpoenas in Flint Crisis


Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., worked for both release of Flint native Hekmati from Iranian custody and more attention to Flint water crisis(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kildee hopes to look beyond EPA’s role. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Environmental Protection Agency came under sharp criticism Wednesday for failing to inform Flint, Mich., residents for nearly a year that their drinking water was contaminated with lead, and House members vowed to continuing investigating the “manmade crisis.”

“It’s important for the EPA to tell people that their water is poisoning their kids,” House Oversight and Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, shouted into his microphone at Wednesday’s hearing. “Why didn’t they do that? What good is the EPA if they can’t do that.”

Full story

February 1, 2016

McCarthy: Iowa Isn’t the Barometer


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference with the Republican members of the California congressional delegation to discuss California water legislation in the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dodged questions about presidential candidates during a sit-down with reporters Monday, but he did offer his thoughts on what the results of the Iowa caucuses will mean: Not much.

“It means it’s not over yet,” the California Republican said when asked what it will mean if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wins the Iowa caucuses Monday night. “I think New Hampshire and the others probably matter more for who the Republican nominee is than Iowa.” Full story

January 27, 2016

Democrats Talk Unity as Pelosi Knocks Sanders


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Pelosi’s dismissal of Sanders’ single-payer health care plan was not a statement of opposition to the idea so much as it was a reality check on his ability to deliver on his idea. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BALTIMORE — As House Democrats gathered here Wednesday to show their unity, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated there’s at least one Democrat who doesn’t share their vision for the future: presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Specifically, Pelosi was addressing Sanders’ plan for a single-payer health care system, an idea she’s supported in the past but one she said is not politically viable.

Full story

House Democrats to Craft Agenda


ocratic Caucus chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., speaks during the House Democrats' news conference on poverty and the House Republicans' budget on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) Copyright © Roll Call Group

Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra promises “top-notch speakers” for House retreat in Baltimore. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With House Republican leaders promising to go on offense this year, House Democrats will huddle in Baltimore starting Wednesday to contemplate the best defense. Which, naturally, is a good offense.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Salman Khan, founder of an online education company, will provide keynote addresses to frame the caucus’s annual issues conference, which will also feature breakout sessions on LGBT equality, national security, criminal justice overhauls and trade, according to a copy of the agenda obtained by Roll Call. Full story

January 26, 2016

Ryan’s 2016 Agenda Likely to Be Sidelined Until 2017


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12: Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., conducts a news conference in the Capitol after a meeting of the House Republican conference, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan wants Republicans to develop policy ideas, but isn’t guaranteeing floor votes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan wants Republicans to “go on offense on ideas” in 2016, but he has only committed to drafting the playbook, not running the plays.

The leadership strategy of protecting members from difficult votes was one Ryan’s predecessor, John A. Boehner of Ohio, employed — and one that did not always sit well with conservatives. So what does it mean if Ryan prevents his members from voting on the “bold” 2016 agenda he wants them to get behind? Full story

January 21, 2016

GOP Request for Planned Parenthood Data Raises Privacy, Security Concerns


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Schakowsky raised concerns about documents requested by the panel investigating Planned Parenthood. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Six Democrats serving on a select panel investigating Planned Parenthood are accusing their Republican counterparts of issuing document requests that “pose grave privacy and security concerns.”

In a letter sent Thursday to the panel’s Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the Democratic members of the select committee cite a recent request to a health care provider in which Republicans ask for “a list of any students, residents, or other medical personnel” who have participated in an abortion, prenatal or postnatal infant care, as well as all communications between the provider and any government officials.

Full story

Rahm Emanuel, in Panel on Policing, Doesn’t Mention Laquan McDonald


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel participates in a panel discussion at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 84th Winter Meeting being held at the Capitol Hilton, January 20, 2016. Also appearing are St. Louis Police Chief Col. D. Samuel Dotson III, left, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, second from right, and Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Chicago Mayor Emanuel spoke on a policing panel, and didn’t mention the shooting of Laquan McDonald. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Only a few blocks away from the White House where he once served as chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke on a panel about community policing, but did not so much as mention Laquan McDonald.

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, Emanuel weighed in on reducing violence and improving relationships between police and communities, but without referencing McDonald, the black 17-year-old shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in 2014. The footage of the fatal shooting, which appeared to show McDonald holding a small knife and walking away from police, was not released until late last year; it has led to calls by some for the mayor to resign.

Full story

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