The US Senate on Tuesday (27 September) failed to pass a stop-gap funding bill after Democrats opposed the bill's exclusion of aid for residents of Flint, Michigan.Now, just three days before the government is set to run out of money, the chances of a government shutdown will depend on whether Republicans agree to help residents deal with Flint's lead-poisoned water.
The procedural vote was shot down, 45-55. The bill, which would only fund the government until 9 December, was opposed by several Republicans, with 13 voting against moving the bill. The Huffington Post reported that opposition rose when the bill failed to deal with the water crisis in Flint.
Democrats are now pushing to include a bipartisan, Senate-passed measure providing $220m (£169m) to help Flint, NBC News reported.
"Would it be asking too much for the speaker of the House, the leader of the Senate, the Republican leader of the Senate, to stand and say, 'We're going to get that thing done, we're going to pass it, we're going to make sure that the bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate is going to become law?" Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid asked. The Nevada Democrat was referring to the Water Resources Development Act, which includes funding for Flint and other efforts regarding lead-poisoning.
"But they ignore that," Reid said. "They ignore the people of Flint." Democrats argue that it is unfair Flint has not received help in a year but Louisiana will be receiving $500m (£384m) in aid for flooding that happened last month.
"Democrats have been clear that Congress should not leave Flint and other lead-tainted communities out of any negotiation that includes emergency disaster funding," Reid said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Our request is simple: include both bipartisan disaster relief packages for consideration in the CR ("continuing resolution"). We urge you to include bipartisan Flint legislation in the CR."
However, McConnell maintained that Senate Republicans want to pass a bill to help Flint after the elections and accused Democrats of creating a crisis by fighting for aid for the city.
"The White House said yesterday that the WRDA bill is an appropriate vehicle for the Flint funding," he said. "It's almost as if a few Democratic leaders decided long ago that bringing our country to the brink would make for good election-year politics. And then they've just made up the rationale as they go along."
The Huffington Post reported that Reid and California Senator Barbara Boxer countered that the House was able to deal with the Flint issue on Monday (26 September) when it wrote up rules to pass its own version of the WRDA. However, Republican then excluded an amendment dealing with Flint.
The bill also included $1.1bn to combat the Zika virus, which many Republicans opposed, Reuters reported. Without the stop-gap measure, several federal agencies will run dry of operating funds at midnight on Friday (30 September), when the government fiscal year ends.