President Barack Obama on Thursday said Republicans are “going to be having to come up with some sort of solution” to the crisis in Flint, Mich., after years of resistance by the state.
Obama and other top Democrats have accused Republican Gov.
Rick Snyder of using the crisis to justify his failed 2010 efforts to privatize public utilities, and the Republican Party has taken steps to distance itself from Snyder.
The president said the Republican governors of the midwestern states are “in a race to the bottom” in their response to the Flint crisis, in which at least two infants were poisoned.
In a speech on Flint Thursday, Obama said Republicans in the House of Representatives have blocked legislation to provide relief to Flint residents, including requiring emergency managers to approve the sale of water to the city.
He said Republicans will have to “come to terms” with the fact that the situation has created a crisis.
He also said Republicans have refused to help with federal aid to Flint, a city of roughly 1,600 people in the Detroit suburbs.
He added that the U.S. government has yet to provide $15 billion in aid to the state as promised, as promised by Snyder and the governor.
“It’s a terrible, terrible situation that’s been created by Rick Snyder, and it’s been a terrible situation for many years,” Obama said.
“But it’s also created a huge gap between what they want and what they’re doing.
It’s not just a crisis for Flint, it’s a crisis across America.”
The president also called for a bipartisan group to lead efforts to solve the Flint water crisis, a call echoed by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans “need to come together and get to work and get it done.”
Schumer said he supports a joint plan between the administration and Congress to help Flint residents and is working on a bill that he hopes to send to the White House.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement that “the American people deserve answers” about what happened in Flint.
The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, who has faced criticism for the crisis, on Thursday called the president’s comments about the Republican leaders “dangerous and irresponsible.”
“The governor’s remarks are a clear signal that he and his administration are not listening to the American people,” Weaver said in an emailed statement.
“We need a response from Congress to protect our families, our water supply, our economy and our children.
There is no other way.”
Snyder has repeatedly said the city should be treated like any other city.
In July, the governor said that he would consider closing the city’s water system to prevent the contamination of drinking water.
The state also is seeking to shut down about 200 of its water treatment plants.
Obama has repeatedly tried to pressure Republican lawmakers to pass his plan to privatized the state’s utilities, but the issue has stalled in Congress.
He has made no public comments about his plan, but earlier this month, he made a similar call for federal help in Flint during an interview on CNN.
In his interview, he said he hopes the government can help with the crisis.
“I don’t think we can solve this crisis on its own, but we can do something, something we can work with our partners,” he said.