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GOP bill would stop EPA from garnishing wages

Two Republican Senators introduced legislation Monday to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from garnishing peoples’ wages.

The bill would stop the EPA from moving forward on a proposal to collect environmental fines and other debts directly from individuals’ wages without courts’ approval.

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“With the avalanche of new regulations being issued, I find it troubling EPA is now seeking authority to garnish wages without a court order,” Sen. Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Neb.) said in a statement.

“The agency should have no problem getting a judge’s blessing to collect a fine if there is a bona fide reason to issue that fine. It’s just common sense,” he said.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Senate GOP works to avoid having '22 war with Trump MORE (R-S.D.) said potential wage garnishments are especially troubling “in light of the ambiguous regulations it’s currently proposing,” such as a rule to redefine its authority over ponds, streams and other waterways.

The EPA proposed the regulation in July to implement 1996 law that gives federal agencies garnishment power without court orders, but only if the agency writes a rule to take advantage of the law.

The agency first tried to write the regulation through an expedited process. But officials received comments objecting to the rule, so they are instead going through the traditional, more lengthy regulatory process.

About 30 federal agencies have given themselves the power to garnish wages, but the EPA’s process has caught the attention of Republicans, who characterize it as an attempt to take peoples’ money to enforce regulations with dubious benefits.

The EPA defended its attempt to garnish wages, saying people who have debts would have opportunities to fight the agency even without a court’s involvement.

“There are numerous opportunities for a debtor to make their case before wage garnishment would occur,” spokeswoman Laura Allen said. “EPA’s due process practices include the opportunity for debtors to dispute the validity of the debt, pay the debt in full, or enter into a repayment agreement acceptable to the EPA.”

Apart from Johanns and Thune, eight other Senate Republicans signed onto the legislation as co-sponsors.