Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule

The Senate voted Thursday to block a measure by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' MORE (R-Utah) that would have repealed former President Obama’s landmark water pollution rule.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 McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants 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 PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade 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.