WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- A bill to provide federal emergency aid to Flint, Mich., a city in the midst of a water crisis, is being held up on Capitol Hill by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.
Rachael Slobodien, a spokeswoman for Cruz, said the Texas senator placed a "soft hold" on the bill to review it Thursday. Slobodien did not elaborate on Cruz's objections, if any, to the bill in its current form, and said she did not expect Cruz to block the bill permanently.
Politico reported that Cruz may not be the only Republican blocking the bill, but so far he's the only one who has been named.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., first told Bloomberg on Thursday of Cruz's hold on the bill, which seeks to provide $850 million to Flint to allow the city to upgrade their aging drinking water system, which has already contaminated thousands of residents with lead poisoning.
Funding would also provide for health programs for those who have been sickened. The aid package is tacked onto a broader energy bill.
Democrats in the Senate unanimously support the bill.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., one of the lead negotiators for the aid package, said the move would not play well in her home state.
"Not a very smart move for a man who's going to be in a primary in Michigan on March 8," she said. "And in Michigan, this is a hugely bipartisan nonpartisan issue that everybody cares about."
Stabenow told Politico she expected the bill would hit the Senate floor next week, "one way or another."
Cruz has been one of the only GOP presidential candidates so far to focus any attention on Flint's water crisis. Wendy Lynn Day, Cruz's Michigan state director, announced on Facebook last month that the campaign would distribute bottled water in the city -- but only to crisis pregnancy centers, places which try to convince pregnant women not to have abortions. Day said in a statement the move was meant to demonstrate "the pro-life values of Senator Cruz."
Dr. Ben Carson, a Michigan native, was the first to comment on the crisis last month. He blamed the Environmental Protection Agency for the crisis, despite the fact that drinking water regulation is a responsibility borne by states.
The EPA said it repeatedly raised warnings about lead in Flint's water, warnings that were unheeded by Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said that officials should have responded to Flint's water crisis sooner. However, the Ohio governor has dismissed any comparison between Flint's lead problem and similar lead contamination issue in the drinking water in Sebring, a town in northern Ohio.
So far, two employees of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have been fired over Sebring's lead contamination.