House to repeal Obama coal rule Wednesday

House to repeal Obama coal rule Wednesday
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House Republicans laid out plans Tuesday to strike down a controversial Obama-era coal rule.

The Interior Department’s stream protection rule could become just the second regulation in history — and the first in 16 years — to be repealed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn regulations they disapprove of with a simple majority.

The House will vote Wednesday on whether to overturn it.

The stream rule prohibits the coal industry from polluting the water sources near mines, but Republicans say this makes it nearly impossible for these companies to operate and is pushing them out of business.

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Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) called it “one of the most onerous regulations that has come out of the Obama administration.”

“Tomorrow, we’re turning the page on Obama’s war on coal,” said Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.).

“There is nothing about ‘protection’ in this rule,” he added. “This was the death mill to coal. It came from an ideologically driven administration. It didn’t care about streams. It wanted to do one thing: kill coal.”

Critics have raised concerns that President Trump and the Republican-Controlled Congress are caving to industry at the expense of the environment, but Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate Congress should stop trying to diminish public lands The Hill's Whip List: 30 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Utah) dismissed that notion.

“We are not doing anything negative for the environment,” he said.

“We’re not going back to the 1950s and 1960s, but we will be able to, hopefully, get our coal mines back in operation,” added Rep. David McKinleyDavid McKinleyThe Hill's Whip List: 30 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan A guide to the committees: House Overnight Regulation: Republicans put Obama coal rule on chopping block MORE (R-W.Va.). 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) previously announced five Obama-era regulations Republicans intend to overturn this week. After they vote Wednesday on the stream protection rule, lawmakers will turn their attention to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule, Labor Department’s blacklisting rule, gun restrictions from the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Land Management’s methane emissions regulation.

The House is also expected next week to strike down another round of Obama-era regulations. McCarthy told reporters Republicans hope to repeal “as many (rules) as possible” over the next two weeks.

But the reach of the Congressional Review Act is limited to rules that were issued in the previous 60 legislative days, which makes it difficult for Republicans to repeal controversial rules from the beginning of the Obama administration.

This is new territory for Republicans. 

The Congressional Review Act was passed in 1996, but has only been successfully used once, when President George W. Bush repealed a Clinton-era labor regulation in 2001. 

In the last Congress, Republicans voted to strike down four regulations from the Obama administration, but GOP lawmakers were powerless to overcome vetoes from President Obama. With Trump in the White House, they now have a small window to repeal some of the more recent Obama-era regulations.