WASHINGTON -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has asked to testify before members of Congress about the Flint water crisis.
Democrats were furious that House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) hadn't called Snyder to testify at an earlier hearing on Flint, where the water has been poisoned by high lead levels since 2014. Snyder's office said in a release that he called Chaffetz Thursday and offered to make the trip.
"The people of Flint have suffered because they were failed by all levels of government, and so it is understandable that there are questions at all levels of government," Snyder said in the release.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the oversight committee, disputed Snyder's characterization of his decision to testify.
"Contrary to Governor Snyder’s recent claim that he requested this ‘opportunity to testify,’ the reality is that he is finally bowing to mounting public pressure to answer questions before Congress about the central and critical role his administration played in this man-made disaster," Cummings said in a statement.
Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the crisis, but he and the PR firms he's hired have also emphasized the federal government's role. A top Environmental Protection Agency official announced her resignation last month after having downplayed lead concerns last year.
State officials failed to ensure Flint's water received anti-corrosion treatment when the city of 100,000 switched its water source in 2014. The new water dissolved lead from the city's pipes, which found its way into Flint kids' blood. Lead is a deadly neurotoxin that can leave children with permanent brain damage after being ingested.
Lead fears came to public attention last year, but Snyder's government dismissed them until a pediatrician documented Flint children's higher blood lead levels last fall. All along, Flint residents had been complaining that their water looked and tasted foul.
Democrats have been hammering Snyder for not responding more quickly to Flint's water woes, alleging environmental racism since Flint has a majority African-American population. Snyder declined Democrats' invitation to testify at a different hearing this week, but apparently the governor is now ready to face their criticism.
"In Michigan we are learning a great deal from this crisis and I am hopeful the federal government also will use this as an opportunity to examine health and safety protections in place, assess infrastructure needs, and avoid this type of crisis in the future," Snyder said.
This story has been updated to include comment from Cummings.