Election-year stunt deplorable

Tens of thousands of flood victims in West Virginia, Louisiana and other states were used as hostages by cynical politicians in Congress this week, in an inexcusable election-year stunt.

Here is what happened:

A short-term spending bill needed to avoid a “government shutdown” was moving through Congress this week. Lawmakers concerned about flood victims inserted $500 million in aid for them, as well as money to battle the Zika virus.

But Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate balked. They would not vote for the spending bill unless action was taken immediately to provide as much as $170 million in aid to residents of Flint, Mich., the liberals vowed.

Republican leaders in both houses had pledged money for Flint would be forthcoming, soon after the stopgap spending bill was approved. Not good enough, vowed ultra-liberals including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Either approve money for Flint now or forget about the spending bill and help for flood victims and fighting Zika.

Fortunately, it appears a compromise was reached Wednesday. The spending authorization, including flood relief and Zika money, should be approved before a deadline this weekend.

No doubt many victims of flooding in West Virginia, Louisiana and elsewhere sympathize with the folks in Flint. After all, their water was contaminated with high levels of lead.

But it isn’t now. The city switched to a different source of water nearly a year ago. So, while many flood victims need help right now, there is no immediate crisis in Flint.

Flint is being used to score political points by liberal politicians insisting failure to lavish federal funding on the city has roots in racism. About 56 percent of the city’s residents are African-American. Many are poor, a fact also emphasized by the liberals.

What Flint officials want is funding to replace the city’s water system with lead-free pipes. No doubt money to help Flint residents with any health problems resulting from consumption of lead-tainted water also will be provided.

But this is not the first time federal funding for Flint has been requested. On Jan. 14, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wrote to President Obama, asking that the situation in Flint be declared a major disaster. Snyder estimated it would cost $55 million to install lead-free pipes in the city.

Obama said no. He declared a state of emergency in Flint and authorized a mere $5 million in aid.

Many flood victims in Louisiana are African-Americans, too. Many of those in West Virginia are poor. Many cities, including some in the Ohio Valley, have miles of waterlines containing lead – but take effective steps every day to ensure it does not corrode out into what flows from customers’ taps.

None of that seems to have been mentioned during the confrontation in Congress this week.

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