Republican presidential hopefuls have shied away from addressing the water emergency in Flint, Michigan, while Democrats continue to forcefully condemn state officials for the crisis that exposed nearly all of the city’s residents to lead poisoning.
“That's not an issue that right now we've been focused on, and for me to give you a deeply detailed answer on what the right approach should be, other than to tell you that, in general, I believe the federal government’s role in some of these things are largely limited unless it involves a federal jurisdictional issue,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters Monday while campaigning in Iowa.
“It's a shame what's happening in Flint, Michigan. A thing like that shouldn't happen but, again, I don't want to comment on that,” Donald Trump said Tuesday in Iowa. “They've got a very difficult problem and I know the governor's got a very difficult time going.”
None of the other GOP candidates have put out statements on the crisis that has resulted in an emergency declaration from President Obama.
The silence, most likely, stems from the role Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration had in the disaster. Snyder’s state of the state remarks Tuesday are expected to focus heavily on Flint.
“It’s a disaster,” Snyder told National Journal. “It’s clearly a negative on what we’ve accomplished since I’ve been governor.” Critics have compared the governor’s response to that of President George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina.
Democrats, however, have readily pushed the issue into the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has called on Snyder to resign, and Hillary Clinton used her closing statement in Sunday’s NBC News debate to highlight the problem.
“Every single American should be outraged,” Clinton said. “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways, and the majority African American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water.”
At a rally Monday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Clinton called the crisis facing the majority African-American city a “civil rights issue.”
Michigan’s attorney general last week opened an investigation into the poising that put nearly all of Flint’s 99,000 residents at risk. Federal investigators are already looking into possible wrongdoing.
“Political statements and finger pointing from political candidates only distract from solving the Flint water crisis,” Snyder tweeted after Clinton and Sanders addressed the crisis during Sunday’s debate.