The Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C. is Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. He has been a fierce progressive advocate during his tenure as Ranking Member, standing up to Republican absurdity and malfeasance during the Benghazi Inquisition, the Planned Parenthood Inquisition, and during hearing on the Flint water crisis where Republicans seemed more intent on hanging the responsibility for what happened in the beleaguered city on the federal government and the USEPA than on the true culprits: the Snyder administration.
Following the Flint water crisis hearings, Ranking Member Cummings said publicly that the Committee had not received all of the information they had requested from Gov. Rick Snyder. I reached out to Rep. Cummings to follow up on that and other issues related to Flint.
You were very outspoken about the role played by the Snyder administration in the Flint water crisis. Following the hearings, particularly the one where Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified, you made statements that Gov. Snyder had not fully cooperated with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in terms of providing information that you had requested.
Where does that stand now? Have you received the information that you requested? If not, do you anticipate getting it?
I am extremely concerned that the Governor has not fully cooperated with the Committee’s requests, and he now appears to be openly defying Congress.
The Governor reversed his sworn testimony to the Committee and admitted that he deleted some emails. We may never know what those emails said.
The Committee’s requests are more comprehensive than the litigants’ requests. We asked for broader topics, search terms, and time frames. But the Governor has only produced to us the same documents he provided to the plaintiffs and the public. The Governor’s lawyer admitted that he did not even read our document request.
The documents we received have gaps in communications that raise serious questions. The documents show the Governor received only a handful of briefings on the Flint water crisis before October 2015, but none of the briefings after the switch to the Flint River in 2014 say what solutions were presented to the Governor.
The documents are missing many emails and correspondence sent to and from the Governor. By all accounts, Governor Snyder communicated regularly by email, and we now know he used multiple email addresses. Despite our repeated requests, he has refused to provide all of those email addresses.
Now that the Flint water crisis hearings have concluded, what further steps will the Committee be taking to ensure Flint is made whole and that nothing like this ever happens again in Flint or elsewhere?
The Committee needs to finish what we started and get answers and solutions for the people of Flint. Our investigation into how the lead crisis was caused and the inadequacy of the response can provide some of that, but the Governor has to cooperate.
Are there other “Flint water crisis” issues happening in other parts of the country that you are aware of? If so, is this part of a systemic problem nationally that requires federal policies and laws to address?
There is a national lead hazard. It is critical that Congress act to provide the funding needed to replace aging lead service lines across the country. In many places, lead is caused by the historical presence of lead in house paint. That is a significant problem in older, often low-income housing, and it is a particular problem in my hometown of Baltimore. We must do more to protect our children from lead poisoning risks associated with older housing.
But the failures of the Snyder Administration and his Department of Environmental Quality are unique. The poisoning of Flint’s water directly resulted from decisions in 2014 and 2015 by individuals appointed by Governor Snyder, including the heads of multiple agencies and members of Governor Snyder’s inner circle.
Governor Snyder’s push to “reinvent Michigan” resulted in dollars being valued more than people. Even today, the snail’s pace at which lead pipes are being replaced shows that the Governor’s values have not changed.
I am so concerned about this lack of progress that more than two months ago, on April 7, 2016, I wrote to the Governor to accept his offer to meet in order to discuss a way forward for Flint. I asked that the meeting include Mayor Weaver and Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson; unfortunately, I have yet to hear back from the Governor.
Ranking Member Cummings will be the keynote speaker at the Michigan Democratic Party’s Justice Caucus 2016 Millie Jeffrey Awards Dinner this Sunday, June 26th. If you are interested in purchasing tickets, go to Justice4Michigan.org.