WASHINGTON – A day after it failed to act on a bill to kill a new clean water rule, the Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that did kill the rule, which extends federal scrutiny to remote streams, ditches, wetlands and other potential sources of pollution to the country’s navigable rivers and lakes.
In the Senate’s arcane parliamentary system, the resolution required only a simple majority to proceed to a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, which it received. It then passed 53-44 Wednesday with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana joining 50 Republicans. The bill stymied Tuesday needed a 60-vote majority to move forward.
The turnaround from Tuesday to Wednesday was not a death sentence for the “waters of the U.S.” rule implemented in May by the Environmental Protection Agency, even though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would bring the Senate resolution to the House for a vote within weeks.
President Obama’s advisers say they will advise him to veto the resolution should it be sent to the White House. Wednesday’s Senate vote margin was well short of the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.
As they did Tuesday, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Minnesota Democrats, voted not to kill the new rule. The agriculture industry has fought hard against the expanded oversight. Environmentalists and the tourism industry have pushed for improved water quality.
A federal judge has postponed implementation of the rule as he considers lawsuits filed by several states.