Obama warns GOP against blocking water rule

Obama warns GOP against blocking water rule

The Obama administration is warning Senate Republicans that their attempts to block a contentious water pollution rule through appropriations legislation puts the whole bill at risk.

A senior administration official told The Hill Wednesday that if the GOP attaches an amendment to the spending bill for energy and water programs to defund the Clean Water Rule, Obama would veto the legislation.

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The Senate is planning to start considering the bill and any amendments Wednesday. It currently does not have any riders to dictate or affect specific policies, and it enjoys bipartisan support, having passed nearly unanimously out of the Appropriations Committee last week.

But the GOP has taken numerous opportunities to attack the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Rule, also known as “waters of the United States,” since it was proposed in 2014. Both the House and the Senate voted last year to overturn it, but Obama vetoed that bill.

Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenRepublicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions Overnight Healthcare: Divisions emerge in Senate over preexisting conditions GOP senators meet with insurer for input on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-N.D.) told his colleagues in last week’s committee meeting that he would sponsor an amendment on the Senate floor to repeal the regulation.

The administration’s statement is a rare rebuke from President Obama. He and his aides have pledged to go to great lengths to uphold the Clean Water Rule, but they do not normally comment on amendments that have not been formally proposed in Congress.

“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,” the official said.

The White House’s Statement of Administration Policy for the bill released Wednesday resists congressional attempts at policy riders in more general terms.

“The administration strongly objects to the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation,” it says, adding that such moves would prompt a veto recommendation.

The regulation, made final nearly a year ago, asserts federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over small streams, wetlands, ponds and other areas whose jurisdiction was not clear previously.

The EPA, which wrote the rule with the Army Corps of Engineers, says it’s essential to protect water that more than 100 million Americans depend upon for drinking, along with other purposes.

But Hoeven said the measure goes way too far.

“Under their definition of a significant nexus, they’ve now unilaterally taken jurisdiction over all water, not just navigable bodies of water, but all water. Even ephemeral water, water that may be there after a rain and then dries up,” he said at last week’s meeting.

“It’s a clear overreach. It affects not only our farmers and ranchers across America, it affects our energy industry, and frankly, it is a violation of private property rights,” Hoeven continued.

The regulation is currently on hold while federal courts consider whether it is legal and constitutional.

The energy and water funding bill only blocks the Army Corps of Engineers from working on the rule. Lawmakers would also have to attach similar language to the funding bill for the EPA, something Hoeven said he plans to propose as well.

The House’s energy and water spending bill, which passed Tuesday out of its Appropriations Committee, blocks any enforcement of the Clean Water Rule.

This report was updated at 10:45 a.m.