As the residents of Flint, Michigan, are forced to come to terms with the fact that they’ve been poisoned by polluted water that their own governor forced them to pay for, Republicans in the Congress have almost entirely ignored the crisis – instead, they decided to push forth legislation repealing the mandates of the Clean Water Act, forcing President Obama to veto their efforts to open up our natural waters to the machinations of their corporate backers.
The President, undoubtedly with a sigh of frustrated resignation and a tired roll of his eyes, wrote in his veto message that:
We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development. As I have noted before, too many of our waters have been left vulnerable. Pollution from upstream sources ends up in the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters near which most Americans live and on which they depend for their drinking water, recreation, and economic development.
Clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act helps to protect these resources and safeguard public health. Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it. I am therefore vetoing this resolution.
Republicans, in general, have been nearly silent on the tragedy unfolding in Flint – with the exception of ghoulish opportunist and religious extremist Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who decided that showing a cursory concern for the victims of one of the largest mass poisonings in history might re-establish a shred of his “Christian values” credibility, which he has dragged through the mud with the undeniable truth that his most consistent political platform has been his own near-constant hypocrisy. Unsurprisingly, he turned the opportunity to really show some of the compassion and charitable spirit he claims to possess into a soapbox moment to rail against the failures of big government and implicitly blaming the President.
We must grudgingly give him credit for having the decency to at least acknowledge the fact that there is a public health disaster unfolding in Flint. Perpetual truant Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) opted to punt as his response, saying that he didn’t know enough about it to comment. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump also declined to comment on it, brushing it off as a “shame” but that he “shouldn’t be commenting on Flint.” These cowards are working to be the next President of the United States – but refuse to acknowledge one of the biggest public health disasters in recent memory? It just goes to show how little the GOP cares for the average American or the health of our environment – all they do is complain about these rules that protect the health of our citizens are just “an EPA power-grab” that would hurt “business” and “farmers.”
In reality, the rules, developed with the Army Corps of Engineers, are in place to protect vital sources of drinking water from being polluted like Flint River was: “protects two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that the Clean Water Act did not clearly cover before. The EPA estimates that a third of Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to the added waterways” summarizes ThinkProgress.
It is absolutely despicable that such commonsense rules have been met with such a wave of opposition from our right-wing politicians, who clearly have placed the interests of their corporate backers and their own pockets above the needs and the safety of the American people. It is even more deplorable that they would force our President to veto this obvious corporate handout barely a week after the news of lead poisoning in possibly thousands of children broke. It’s like they aren’t even pretending to care about us anymore.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.