The legislation, which was defeated in a 52-46 vote, would have given the agency 15 months to propose new “achievable” rules that are the “least burdensome” on industry.

"This is a very modest bipartisan amendment that simply gives the EPA more time to get these regulations right and our struggling manufacturers more time to comply with them," said Collins prior to the vote. "It's a false choice to say this is the environment verses the economy. We can have both."

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.), however, argued from the floor that if the amendment passed it would directly lead to the untimely death of thousands of Americans. 

"What we do here makes a difference in people's lives ... we have studies that show ... we will have 8,100 premature deaths, and talk about jobs — 400,000 lost work days per year if this becomes law," she said. "The EPA is trying to makes sure we don't have too much arsenic, we don't have too much chromium, lead and mercury in the air." 

The EPA unveiled the regulations last year that require industrial boiler and incinerator operators to install technology to reduce harmful air pollutants like mercury and soot. 

The agency said the “maximum achievable control technology” standards will offer major public health benefits, preventing 8,100 premature deaths and 5,100 heart attacks a year starting in 2015.

But Republicans, some centrist Democrats and industry groups have launched an aggressive campaign against the regulations, arguing they will cost jobs and burden the economy.