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Will Congressional Face-off Over Flint Lead to a Government Shutdown?

Movement on a measure aimed at preventing the government from shutting down this weekend was voted down in a procedural motion in the Senate on Tuesday — a move which sets Capitol Hill on a collision course that could lead to a shutdown this weekend.

The vote was 45 to 55.

Democrats enacted a last-minute push for renewed talks on must-do legislation to keep the government running, fight the Zika virus and to help flood-ravaged Louisiana rebuild. The aim is to see if Republicans will relent and add money to help with the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

Image: The Capitol, seat of the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.
The Capitol, seat of the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. DEA / ARCHIVIO J. LANGE / De Agostini/Getty Images

Without progress on the Flint water issue, Democrats vowed to block the stopgap funding bill Tuesday afternoon, a step that increases the chances of a shutdown at midnight Friday. They are pressing to add a bipartisan, Senate-passed measure to provide $220 million to help Flint and other communities with lead-poisoned water replace pipes and take other steps.

Democrats say it's unfair that the water crisis in Flint has gone on for a year with no assistance, while Louisiana is getting $500 million for floods that occurred just last month as part of the 10-week stopgap bill, called a "CR" (for "continuing resolution") in Washington code.

"Democrats have been clear that Congress should not leave Flint and other lead-tainted communities out of any (stopgap spending) negotiation that includes emergency disaster funding," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other top Democrats in a Tuesday morning letter to McConnell. "Our request is simple: include both bipartisan disaster relief packages for consideration in the CR. We urge you to include bipartisan Flint legislation in the CR."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now has just a handful of options, one of which would be to strip $500 million in flood aid for Louisiana and other states from the bill.

"Is their solution now to remove help for flood victims?" McConnell asked in a Monday floor speech. "If their solution is to remove help for flood victims, they should say so."

Republicans say the Flint issue will be handled in a separate measure to authorize water development projects. That measure — without Flint money — is set for a House floor debate Tuesday, but Republicans are telegraphing it will be included in any final measure handled in a post-election session.

"We are going to deal with Flint," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.