A U.S. senator from Utah who put a hold on a bill to provide federal aid to Flint, Michigan, amid its water crisis said Friday he did so because the federal money is unneeded.
"The state of Michigan has an enormous budget surplus this year and a large rainy-day fund, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars," Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, said in a statement Friday.
"Governor [Rick] Snyder has requested $200 million of that from the state legislature for Flint this year. Relief and repair efforts are already in the works," Lee said. "The people and policymakers of Michigan right now have all the government resources they need to fix the problem."
The residents of the city of nearly 100,000 were exposed to lead poisoning when the city switched water sources in a bid to save money. Lead poisoning can destroy brain tissue and cause irreversible developmental problems in children.
Related: A Timeline of the Flint Water Crisis
The $220 million bill would provide funds to help Flint and cities like it fix and replace lead pipes, as well as prevent and address lead poisoning.
Lee’s "hold" on the bill only stops the speedy consideration of a bill, and can be bypassed procedurally.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a key sponsor of the bill, said she was surprised and disappointed that Lee would hold up a bipartisan measure that would "help communities across the country, including in his home state of Utah." She said if Lee is opposed, he should vote against the bill rather than try and hold it up
Lee accused lawmakers of "political grandstanding" and of using the water crisis in Flint to send federal dollars to their home states.
As introduced, the legislation would provide $100 million in "drinking water state revolving funds” available to any state with a drinking water emergency; provide $70 million to back water infrastructure loans; and provide $50 million to prevent and address lead poisoning.