House Democrats fail to protect Clean Water Act rule

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 - Democratic appropriators failed to slow down a Republican effort to block the Obama administration from re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, proposed to strip several policy provisions from the fiscal 2016 Energy and Water spending bill, arguing that they would likely trigger a White House veto. 

Lets Talk Food But the House Appropriations Committee voted down her proposal, 18-31, on a near party-line vote. Two Democrats, Sanford Bishop of Georgia and Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted with Republicans to preserve the policy provisions, which included one that would prevent implementation of a rule defining what streams, ditches, ponds, wetlands and other features can be regulated as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

A second policy provision targeted by Kaptur would allow possession of firearms on land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is funded under the bill.

The committee approved on a voice vote a separate amendment by Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., intended to accelerate federal decisions on reservoir projects in his drought-stricken state. His amendment would set several deadlines for the Bureau of Reclamation to finish feasibility studies, including a Dec. 31 deadline on the Shasta reservoir, the primary reservoir for the Central Valley Project.

The full bill was also approved on a voice vote.

Republicans have made clear they intend to use the appropriations process to attack the administration's regulatory agenda on a variety of fronts, with the WOTUS rule as one of their highest priorities.

Regulating “how waters should be used should be the responsibility of state and local officials who are familiar with the people and local issues,” said Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, the chairman of the subcommittee that drafted the measure. 

But in a letter to the full committee Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget said it was “irresponsible” of GOP appropriators to insist on including the controversial provisions.

“We have a tough negotiation on this bill already without saddling it with legislative riders,” Kaptur told colleagues.  

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week approved a separate bill (HR 1732) that would force the administration to withdraw the WOTUS rule, but the measure drew only two Democratic votes and has little chance of becoming law.

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