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Top Republican Promises Rick Snyder Will Have 'A Tough Day' On Capitol Hill

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Tyler Tynes
ATHENA IMAGE © Alex Wong via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

WASHINGTON -- After a hearing in which officials from multiple levels of government insisted they'd done nothing wrong in their handling of the Flint water crisis , a top Republican investigating it suggested Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has done a better job of coming clean.

“He’s actually done something about it. He’s fired people," House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Huffington Post.

"He’s actually offered bills to put hundreds of millions of dollars to help solve this problem," Chaffetz continued. "But we have to ask him those things in person, that’s why you have hearings."

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), has blasted Chaffetz for being soft on Snyder, but Chaffetz said there will be no softness on Thursday.

“Oh, he’s in for a tough day,” Chaffetz said with a smile heading into an elevator. “It’s not gonna be easy.”

Chaffetz and other Republicans have joined Democrats in grilling state, local and federal officials involved in the Flint water crisis in two previous hearings. But in a February hearing that featured lower-ranking state officials, Cummings and other Democrats frequently complained about Snyder's absence.

“[Chaffetz] then said, you know, ‘Hold up, let’s see if we can work this thing out,' Cummings said. "Then he agreed to insist that the governor come forward.”

Chaffetz said it didn't take much insisting.

“When we actually got on the phone together, he offered to come," Chaffetz said. "No need for a subpoena. It was actually quite easy. I wish every witness was that easy.”

Still, Cummings said a lack of information from Snyder has been impeding the committee from properly examining his role in the water crisis -- which has  disproportionately affected poor communities of color

“I don’t feel we have gotten enough information, nor do I feel how [Chaffetz] could be satisfied with the information that we got either,” Cummings said, noting that Chaffetz has been tougher on other witnesses, like former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. 

Cummings, along with Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), complained in a Wednesday letter to Snyder that 15 of his current and former employees hadn't cooperated with the committee.

The numerous members include Snyder's former chief of staff, spokesperson and point person on the Flint water crisis.

“Their refusals directly contradict your multiple promises of transparency and accountability to the people of Flint, and they obstruct the ability of Congress to adequately investigate this crisis," the letter said.

Despite tension over getting Snyder to testify, Cummings agreed his relationship with the committee's chair is much better now than when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held the gavel. Issa manned the committee for four years before losing power last January

“We don’t agree on everything but we aren’t disagreeable," Cummings told The Huffington Post this week in a phone interview. "There have been a number of things we have done together. But I find it a much better relationship."

Chaffetz agreed. “I think we understand each other. We disagree on almost every issue, but we don’t disagree with each other in terms of people," Chaffetz told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "There’s a degree of respect and admiration there that allows a committee to do far more than perhaps in the past.”

Ari Adler, Snyder’s communications director, said Snyder volunteered to testify before Congress because the Michigan state administration has been trying to be transparent and accountable.

“It was the best thing to do as part of his efforts to apologize to the people of Flint and accept responsibility for the state’s role in what happened there,” Adler said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post on Wednesday. “He also welcomes the opportunity to explain what he is doing to fix the crisis in Flint and correct how state government is handling such matters so that nothing like this can ever happen again.”

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