Nov. 4, 2015 - Senate Democrats blocked a long-awaited Republican attempt to
force the Obama administration to replace its rule re-defining the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that are regulated by the Clean Water Act. But a Senate
appropriator is expressing optimism that Republicans can use a government-wide
spending bill due in December to ensure the administration can’t enforce the WOTUS rule, even if the federal courts
allow it to go forward.
On Tuesday, supporters of the
WOTUS-replacement measure sponsored by John Barrasso, R-Wyo., fell two votes
short of getting the 60 needed to bring it to a full debate. Just four Democrats supported the
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly brought up a fallback measure, a
disapproval resolution, that would simply kill the WOTUS rule. That only needed
a simple majority to proceed, which it got, 55-43. A final vote on the
resolution was expected Wednesday.
allowed Republicans to put some pressure on Democrats on the issue. Opponents of the measures “will live
to regret the decision,” said GOP
Whip John Cornyn of Texas. Both the bill and the
resolution, however, are largely symbolic because of White House veto threats:
The votes demonstrated that supporters are nowhere near having a two-thirds
majority in the Senate.
John Hoeven of
North Dakota, who sits on the Senate Appropriations subcommittees that oversee
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, tells Agri-Pulse
that the court rulings blocking
implementation of the rule probably took some of the heat off Democrats.
But he believes Republicans need to get a provision in the fiscal 2016 omnibus
spending bill that would prevent the rule from being enforced.
can lift the injunction at some point,” Hoeven
said. “And if we can include WOTUS in the (omnibus) appropriation bill … essentially
that takes care of it through the Obama administration and then we’ll be
dealing with a new administration.”
A North Dakota
federal judge issued an order in August that blocked enforcement of the rule in
13 states, and then the Sixth U.S. Circuit of Appeals last month extended the
stay nationwide. The Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati, has scheduled oral
arguments for Dec. 8.
Supporters of the WOTUS rule peeled off a couple of votes since the
Senate approved a non-binding anti-WOTUS amendment in March. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Angus King, I-Maine, supported that
amendment, but on
Tuesday they voted against debating both the bill and the disapproval
voted to debate the Barrasso bill - Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly
of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. But McCaskill broke away and
opposed moving the disapproval resolution.
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