Energy & Environment

Senate approves measure overturning Biden clean water regulations, setting up likely veto

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution that would nix the Biden administration’s clean water regulations, setting up another anticipated veto from the president.

In the 53-43 vote, four Democrats sided with Republicans in favor of eliminating the Biden rule: Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).  

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who switched her affiliation from Democratic to Independent last fall but usually votes with Democrats, also sided with the GOP.

All five senators, with the exception of Cortez Masto, are up for reelection next year.

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to eliminate federal regulations within a certain time period with a simple majority vote and the president’s signature — evading a Senate filibuster.

Biden is expected to veto this measure, however, and supporters do not appear to have the votes to override his veto.

The rule in question, sometimes referred to as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, defines which waters are subject to federal regulations.

Federally regulated waters require permits for activities that may pollute the waters, like construction or mining. 

The issue has ping-ponged back and forth between administrations, as Republicans and various industries have pushed for regulating fewer waters while Democrats and environmentalists have supported more regulations.

A former EPA attorney told The Hill that when Biden’s regulations were finalized in December that they were expected to be “somewhat similar” to what was already in place after Obama-era and Trump-era rules suffered court losses. 

Nevertheless, the rule’s opponents argue that it is too burdensome for various industries, including agriculture and energy. 

“I’m proud to lead my colleagues in standing up for farmers and ranchers, landowners and builders, and energy and infrastructure workers across the United States,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in a written statement. 

“I urge President Biden not to overrule the will of a bipartisan majority in Congress, and instead draft a new rule that doesn’t unfairly penalize millions of Americans and jeopardize future growth in our country,” she added. 

A White House statement threatening to veto the measure said getting rid of the Biden rule would lead to an “uncertain, fragmented, and watered-down regulatory system.”

The issue of which waters to regulate is also currently before the Supreme Court, which in the coming weeks will issue a decision in a case that largely centered around wetlands. 

This story was updated at 3:53 p.m.

Tags Catherine Cortez Masto Joe Biden Kyrsten Sinema Shelley Moore Capito

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