GOP launches new long-shot attack on Clean Water Act rule

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2015 - Senate Republican critics of the Obama administration's Clean Water Act rule initiated another long-shot attempt to strike it down, this time through a disapproval resolution that would have to be enacted over a presidential veto. 

The resolution is sponsored by 47 Republican senators. Republicans have so far been unable to kill and replace the rule, which took effect Aug. 28 in all but 13 states where its implementation was blocked by a federal judge. 

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The best chance of blocking the rule, which re-defines the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that are regulated by the law, is likely to be through an appropriations policy rider that would bar funding for the rule's implementation during fiscal 2016. 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill (S 1140) in June to kill the rule, but supporters don't have the 60 votes necessary to move it on the Senate floor. 

The appropriations rider is the least attractive of the options because it would leave the rule on the books while preventing farm groups from working with EPA to ameliorate the impact of the way it is enforced, said Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council. That scenario could “potentially make things worse,” he said. 

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The Congressional Review Act sets up fast-track procedures for lawmakers to kill an administrative rule, but disapproval resolutions must overcome the same veto hurdle faced by other legislation.

“It is time to put an end to this harmful rule that threatens the livelihood of our rural communities nationwide and to work to establish the needed certainty for our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, small businesses and other landowners,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

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