WASHINGTON, April 15, 2015 – House committees approved separate bills to block the Obama administration from re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, but Democrats made clear that the strategy will face stiff opposition.
Both bills are aimed at blocking implementation of a rule to clarify what streams, ponds, ditches and other features are regulated by the anti-pollution law as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).A House appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill for the Army Corps of Engineers that contains a provision to temporarily prevent enforcement of a final WOTUS rule for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee separately approved, 36-22, a bill (HR 1732) that would force the administration to withdraw the rule and replace it with a new version developed in consultation with state and local governments.
Democrats argued that the bill was “more than premature,” given that the rule hadn’t been finalized yet, and just two Democrats voted for the measure, Sean Maloney of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
“The agencies need to go back and do it right. This bill gives the agencies another chance,” said the committee chairman, Bill Shuster, R-Pa.
But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, said agency officials had pledged to address concerns that had been raised about the proposed rule and that lawmakers should wait to see how the measure is revised.
“A more reasonable course of action would be let’s wait and see it and read it,” DeFazio said.
He said Republicans could block the final rule through the Congressional Review Act, but a CRA resolution of disapproval would face the same problem as the bill: President Obama is virtually certain to veto it and Republicans likely couldn’t find enough Democratic support to override him.
Republicans’ best option is an appropriations bill, which would be more difficult for the president to veto since it could lead to a shutdown of government agencies.