By Devin Henry – 04/21/16 12:28 PM EDT
Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican effort to prevent further spending on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule designed to establish federal regulatory control over small waterways.
The measure, from Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster; the vote was 56-42.
Hoeven’s measure would have amended the chamber’s energy and water spending bill to block funding spending on the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, also called the Waters of the United States rule.
Though a federal court has already put the rule on hold, Republicans said say ending it legislatively is important as well. Republicans, rural interests and the agriculture industry argue the rule is executive overreach.
“The EPA wants to now define ‘navigable waters’ as all the water basically in the country, because they want to say it’s any water that can run into any water that can run into any water. I don’t know how many reiterations of that there could be,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said. “It could run into any water that eventually runs into navigable water.”
Most Democrats have defended the water rule, and the White House said Wednesday that President Obama would veto any energy and water spending bill that tries to eliminate the rule. Obama already vetoed a Congressional Review Act challenge to the regulations in January.
“If the final bill that is presented to the president includes problematic ideological provisions that have no place in funding legislation — including any attempt to block our efforts to protect Americans’ health by keeping our streams and wetlands clean — his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” a White House official said this week in a statement.
During floor debate on the amendment, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) defended the water rule and the EPA’s ability to regulate water quality.
“What will this Congress’s legacy be?” he said. “What will we be remembered [for], in regards to protecting this planet and protecting our country and protecting our environment for future generations? I hope that we will work together to build on the proud accomplishments of our predecessors for clean air and clean water.”
The Senate also voted down, 48-49, an amendment from Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) to wind down the Energy Department’s Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program.
Coats called it a “failed” program and said it “continues to sit on billions o f dollars of unused funds that could be put to better use.”
—Timothy Cama contributed to this report. This post was updated at 1:07 p.m.Tags: Congress, federal, policy, water