Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule

The Senate voted Thursday to block a measure by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 New act can help us grapple with portion of exploding national debt MORE (R-Utah) that would have repealed former President Obama’s landmark water pollution rule.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 Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season Trump: McConnell should keep Senate in session until nominees are approved 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 to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards 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.