They’re at it again.  Congressional leadership is jumping through legislative hoops on behalf of polluters; both chambers have introduced Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions to nullify the Clean Water Rule that would protect the drinking water of one in three Americans. In the Senate, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is leading this assault on our water.  What’s more, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMiners union to back Biden on green energy if it retains jobs Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism MORE (R-Wyo.) is pushing an entirely separate bill that would not just block the Clean Water Rule but would narrow and even re-write the Clean Water Act. We should be wary—Congressional leadership is stockpiling schemes to ambush our clean water. 

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule.  This rule clarifies the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act:  In the last 15 years, two Supreme Court decisions have created confusion over which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act, leaving more than half of our nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands, which feed into our drinking water, vulnerable to pollution. The Clean Water Rule fixes this confusion. 


To develop this rule, the EPA and Army Corps engaged with and solicited feedback from a large swath of stakeholders.  They held over 400 meetings and collected over 1 million comments—sportsmen, small businesses, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers, public health groups, religious organizations, and state and local elected officials all had a chance to tell the agencies why they needed them to protect their water.  The result was a scientifically sound Clean Water Rule that provides safeguards from pollution for the drinking water of 117 million Americans.  

Support for this rule should be straightforward.  However, Republican leaders in the Senate have decided to be against clean water, putting forth two bills that would gut the rule and severely limit the reach of the Clean Water Act itself, despite the fact that a federal appeals court has stayed the rule nationwide while the courts decide if the EPA and Army Corps have followed the directions laid out by the Supreme Court.  

To start, Barasso’s bill would force the EPA and Army Corps to repeat work they’ve already completed: going back to solicit input from stakeholders they’ve already consulted, considering factors they’ve already considered, and re-proposing a rule, which they’ve already done.  This is a remarkable waste of time and taxpayer money. Furthermore, this bill’s vague exemptions and definitions of waterways would narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, opening up more of our waters to possible pollution.   

Next up is the CRA, which is a blunt, extreme tool for blocking federal actions, and no way to legislate.  The CRA expedites Congress’ ability to block regulatory rules, but, in nearly two decades of its existence, only once has Congress used it to successfully stop a rule.  President Obama has indicated time and again that he’s committed to getting the Clean Water Rule across the finish line, and there is little doubt that he would veto a CRA on the Clean Water Rule. Congressional Republican leadership knows this and that they don’t have the votes to override his decision, yet they continue to waste time on this and Barrasso’s bill.  

With these extreme attacks, Senate Republican leadership is demonstrating once again where their loyalties lie: with big polluters, not their constituents, not the 80 percent of voters who favor the Clean Water Rule, not the families, communities, and businesses that rely on clean water.

It’s time for Congress to stand up for our future and protect clean water by opposing these extreme, horrible bills that would not only block the Clean Water Rule but undermine the Clean Water Act itself.  Our children and our grandchildren should not be saddled with undrinkable water because big polluters convinced some members of Congress to put their desires ahead of clean water for our families.

Karpinski is the president of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which works to turn environmental values into national priorities. More information on LCV and its work can be found at