Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule

The Senate voted Thursday to block a measure by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeReexamining presidential power over national monuments Utah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Utah) that would have repealed former President Obama’s landmark water pollution rule.

The amendment would have prohibited funding in a major spending bill from being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to enforce the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States.

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The rule was developed alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Multiple federal courts have put it on hold, and the Trump administration is working to repeal it.

Senators voted 62-34 to table the amendment, effectively blocking it.

Republicans have consistently opposed the water rule, but 20 GOP senators voted with most Democrats to block Lee’s amendment, since it would break a deal that Senate Appropriations Committee leaders made to avoid controversial policy provisions in spending bills.

“I have no doubt about it, I can't find many people on this side of the aisle who approved of the Waters of the United States regulation of the previous administration,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.

“It's on the way to the ash heap of history right now under this administration. So this is not about Waters of the United States or whether we are for it or against it. This is about whether we want to get away from annual omnibus appropriation bills, and this is the first test here,” he said, referring to the process of passing spending bills as a massive package, written in conference negotiations.

Lee nonetheless pushed ahead.

“It is not unusual to have policy in an appropriations bill. It happens with some regularity.”

Lee referenced a 2016 resolution in which 53 senators voted to repeal the water rule, which was enough to pass the measure. The House also voted to repeal it, but Obama vetoed the repeal.

The Obama-era water rule would have redefined the federal government’s authority over bodies of water and exerted authority over small waterways like ponds and headwaters.

The GOP and numerous industries say it effectively gave the government power over large swaths of both water and land, including dry areas.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE proposed to repeal it last year. Pruitt also intends to replace the rule with a more industry-friendly alternative, and the White House Office of Management and Budget recently began its review of the proposal, the final step before it can be released for public comment.