By Timothy Cama - 01/21/16 11:05 AM EST
Senate Republicans fell short Thursday in their attempt to override a veto from President Obama and repeal a contentious water regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fifty-two senators voted to move forward with an attempt to override Obama’s veto of the resolution, short of the 60 votes needed.
Even if the Senate had achieved cloture on the resolution, final passage would have required a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress — a steep climb.
The 52-40 Thursday vote closes the latest chapter in the GOP’s push to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to assert power over small waterways like streams and wetlands. The Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States” was made final last year.
The legislation at issue was written under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers the power to overturn regulations. But resolutions blocking federal rules are subject to a presidential veto and require a two-thirds majority for to be overridden.
The GOP argues the water rule can be interpreted to give the EPA power over nearly all land in the country, requiring federal permits under the Clean Water Act for any action that changes or harms the land, including digging ditches.
“The administration has tried to spin WOTUS as some ‘clean-water measure,’ but a bipartisan majority of Congress understands it’s really a federal power grab clumsily masquerading as one,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Reid: Groping accusations show Trump’s ‘sickness’ GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Ky.) said of the regulation on the Senate floor.
“WOTUS would grant federal bureaucrats dominion over nearly every piece of land that touches a pothole, ditch, or puddle. It could force the Americans who live there to ask federal bureaucrats for permission to do just about anything with their own property,” he said.
Democrats say the rule is necessary to ensure that vulnerable waterways are protected from pollution and harm, after Supreme Court rulings that put their protections at risk.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidPelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Latinos build a wall between Trump and White House in new ad The true (and incredible) story of Hill staffers on the industry payroll MORE (D-Nev.) accused Republicans of wasting time on the override vote.
“Today, my Republican colleagues have chosen to once again attack clean water protections that millions of Americans depend on,” Reid said.
“The Clean Water Rule resolves years of confusion, provides regulatory certainty for businesses, farmers, local governments and communities. It creates no new permitting requirements and it maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions,” he said.
The EPA has yet to enforce the water rule; a federal court has blocked its implementation while opponents, including farmers and developers, pursue a legal challenge.
—This story was updated at 11:16 a.m.