WASHINGTON -- After initially placing a hold on bipartisan legislation to help cities like Flint, Michigan, upgrade their water infrastructure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he would not stop the measure from moving forward.
"He has reviewed the bill now and will not prevent it from moving forward," Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said in an email Thursday evening.
But it remains to be seen if the other senators potentially holding up the Flint legislation -- and an energy bill its fate is linked to -- will stop blocking the package.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters through a grin earlier Thursday that “a presidential candidate, not to name names,” was holding up the legislation, which was fast-tracked Wednesday using a procedural tool in the Senate. A single senator has the ability to stop that process.
A Democratic aide said at the time that Cruz was one of the senators holding up the legislation, and a Cruz spokesman said his office was reviewing the legislation, which is part of a larger deal that includes an unrelated energy bill.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the architects of the Flint measure, didn’t want to name names either, but did say the bill was being held.
“It is multiple,” Inhofe said, but didn’t elaborate on why those senators were holding up the bill.
Inhofe remained confident that the hold would not last long and would be easily resolved. “It won’t change very much at all,” he said of the text of the bill.
The legislation would give states access to $100 million for loans to deal with drinking water emergencies, $70 million worth of credit subsidies for water infrastructure upgrades and $50 million for public health efforts. Inhofe and other Republicans insisted the measure be paid for by reprogramming $250 million in credit subsidies for fuel-efficient vehicle development.
The Flint water crisis started in 2014 when the state of Michigan failed to make sure Flint's water was treated correctly following a state-approved switch to the Flint River as its water source. The water caused lead to leach from Flint's aging pipes, resulting in higher amounts of lead in the blood of Flint children.
Senate Democrats first proposed Flint legislation at the end of January. They originally sought $400 million in federal spending to help the city fix and replace its lead pipes, plus $200 million to establish a center for Flint kids who had been poisoned by lead.
Lead is a deadly neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to young children, who can suffer permanent brain damage and behavioral problems later in life.
This post has been updated to note that Cruz has dropped his hold on the legislation.