Last year, the nation watched in shock and outrage as revelations emerged about the way that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder purposefully cut corners in his administration of the city of Flint, allowing the city’s population to be exposed to extremely dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water in order to make it appear that he was being a fiscal hawk.
What we couldn’t have imagined even a few months ago is that the entire United States would soon be made vulnerable to the same kind of toxic neglect. Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening, thanks to Donald Trump and the new Republican Congress.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 26, the REINS Act, and the Senate is planning to do the same. Donald Trump has pledged to support the bill, saying, “I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed.”
What the REINS Act does is to block federal measures that protect Americans from toxic substances and dangerous workplace environments. Under the REINS Act, the Republican Congress declares that no new protections for American communities, families, workers, and children can take place, and it will only be open to considering those protections on one day per month. If Congress simply does nothing, all new efforts to protect Americans from dangerous substances and situations will simply wither away automatically within 70 days.
Obviously, the REINS Act is designed to sabotage federal protections for American communities like Flint, Michigan.
Could an exception have been made in the law for extreme circumstances, to allow protection from lead poisoning in drinking water, for example?
U.S. Representative John Conyers tried that. He offered an amendment to the REINS Act that would have allowed for protections against lead contamination to go forward. The House Republicans refused to pass the amendment.
What’s more, every one of the congressional Republicans from Michigan voted against protecting Americans from the kind of lead poisoning that took place in Flint, Michigan. Those GOP Michiganders were: Tim Walberg, Fred Upton, David Trott, John Moolenar, Paul Mitchell, Bill Huizenga, Mike Bishop, Jack Bergman, and Justin Amash.
The crisis began in Michigan, but thanks to the REINS Act, we are all living in Flint now.