Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, 2013. Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0

The US Senate did some authentic bipartisanship yesterday, passing a $35 billion bill that will upgrade states' drinking water systems. The bill, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, passed on a great big 89 to 2 vote, with just two senators, Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah voting against it.

The bill's lead authors were Sens. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Shelley Moore-Capito (R-West Virginia), and it was co-sponsored by a load of other senators from both parties. On Twitter, Carper said the bill would "foster economic growth, build climate-resilient infrastructure, and help ensure that all Americans have access to clean, safe water." That's nice! Sure have to wonder why Mike Lee and Ted Cruz aren't in favor of that!


In a bipartisan statement, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee invoked disasters like the Flint water crisis and the recent winter storm in Texas, which left millons without drinking water.

Millions of Americans do not have consistent access to clean drinking water. Many more live in areas where a single storm or natural disaster could devastate weak and archaic infrastructure, leading to an outright catastrophe.

That sure sounds like the sort of thing a senator from Texas would want to make sure doesn't happen again.

We checked Cruz's and Lee’s Twitter accounts to see if they had explained why they voted against clean water. Cruz was too busy complaining about "woke" corporations to mention his vote. Lee didn't actually say anything about his vote against the bill, but he at least offered a hint by posting his remarks on an amendment he'd offered to the bill.

The TLDR version is that Lee objects to presidents' ability to declare national monuments; he's apparently still pissed off that Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument, and about the resulting changes in water rights. Lee may be a Mormon, but he apparently believes the old western dictum that "whiskey's for drinkin', water's for fightin'." His amendment, which wasn't adopted, would have preserved existing water rights when new monuments were declared. So OK, guess that explains why he couldn't bring himself to vote for clean water for everyone else.

Cruz's no vote may be related to the failure of another amendment to the bill, although he hasn't said anything about it. Cruz had co-sponsored an amendment by Marco Rubio (R-Florida and the Bible) that would have altered the way the government allocates funding for sewer system upgrades. Cruz and Rubio had insisted the change was needed to protect rapidly growing states like Texas and Florida, but the amendment was opposed by folks who said it would gut provisions in the bill that would ensure environmental justice.

That didn't really come into play on the Senate floor, since Rubio's amendment included a dumb typo, adding a zero to a percentage in the funding formula. When Rubio asked the typo to be corrected before a vote on the amendment, Carper said nah, it's too late to change your paperwork once it's on the floor, dude. That led Rubio to have a little hissy fit about how mean and tyrannical Democrats are.

Poor Marco! He sputtered,

I just want everybody to be clear, we're not changing the formula, there's an extra zero. It is literally a typo, the kind of typos people make every single day in the Senate. Instead of saying .025 it says .0025. Everyone knows what it was intended to do, that's the way we've talked about it. [...]

The Senate is now a place where you cannot amend a typo through unanimous consent. That's unbelievable, it is unreal. I frankly find it unacceptable.

Rubio ultimately voted for the overall bill, though he also posted a statement complaining that the Senate had rejected his amendment. Did he mention the typo? Heck no!

So that might explain Cruz's no vote, not that he's saying anything about it. And now, let's see if the Senate's grownups can pass some more bipartisan infrastructure stuff!

[NBC News / Independent / Mike Lee / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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