WASHINGTON, April 9, 2015 – The House will start moving bills next week to block the Obama administration’s attempt to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
A House Appropriations subcommittee is expected to vote Wednesday on the Energy and Water spending bill, which funds the Army Corps of Engineers. The fiscal 2015 version of the bill contained a provision to block the administration from writing the definition of what streams, ditches, ponds and other areas are regulated under the anti-pollution law as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
A spokeswoman for the chairman of the subcommittee, Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, declined to discuss what would be in the draft of the 2016 bill. But she said, “I can confirm that Congressman Simpson remains strongly committed to blocking the WOTUS rule and intends to use any legitimate legislative vehicle available to achieve that goal,” she said.
Separately, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday will consider a standalone bill, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 201, to stop the WOTUS rule.
The measure will be similar but not identical to a bill that the House passed last year (HR 5078) that would have killed the rule, said James Arnold, a spokesman for committee member Rick Crawford, R-Ark. Democrats, who then controlled the Senate, didn’t consider the measure, and it would have been vetoed by President Obama anyway.
Republicans consider appropriations measures as their best chance to attack the president’s regulatory agenda, since the spending bills are needed to keep agencies operating after the near fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
EPA and Army Corps of Engineers officials have said they hoped to finalize the WOTUS rule yet this spring. The rule was moved to the Office of Management and Budget last week for final review.
The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, said in a blog post Monday that the final rule would address a range of objections that have been raised by farm groups. She didn’t release any details of the changes, however, beyond saying which issues would be addressed. “The public will see that the agencies listened carefully and made changes based on their input,” she said.
In a memo to House Republicans Thursday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the Energy and Water measure would be one of the first two appropriations bills to begin moving in the House. It is generally less controversial than many other bills, including the Interior and Environment bill that funds EPA.
The bill could be on the House floor the week of April 28.
“The ‘power of the purse’ is one of Congress’ most fundamental responsibilities and our appropriations process has been instrumental in curbing wasteful Washington spending in recent years,’ said the memo, which lays out the House’s April agenda. “We will continue to force Washington to live within its means through the appropriations process this year."
Adding policy riders to appropriations bills could increase the chances of a showdown with Obama over the measures, and Republicans will have difficulty overriding a veto, especially in the Senate where the GOP has 54 seats, 13 shy of the needed two-thirds margin.
The Senate last month voted 59-40 in favor of a non-binding amendment calling for the administration to limit the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was absent but would have provided a 60th vote.