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Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule

The Senate voted Thursday to block a measure by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Energy: Colonial Pipeline says it has restored full service | Biden urges people not to panic about gasoline shortages | EPA rescinds Trump-era cost-benefit rule Senate panel advances Biden's deputy Interior pick Hillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech MORE (R-Utah) that would have repealed former President Obama’s landmark water pollution rule.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 McConnellBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Washington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden 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 PruittCourt sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues Scientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change 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.