- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2023

The House on Thursday voted in bipartisan fashion to reject President Biden’s bid to expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction over streams and wetlands.

The GOP-led chamber passed a privileged resolution, which must now be taken up in the Senate and only requires a simple majority, as part of a broader strategy to force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take tough votes on the administration’s policies.

The measure was approved 227-198 to block Mr. Biden’s rule known as the Waters of the United States, regulations set to take effect later this month that Republicans say would jeopardize farmland with small bodies of water like creeks or ravines that could fall under federal protection.

Nine House Democrats voted with all Republicans for the resolution.

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to pass it next week with the support of at least one Democrat: Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves, Missouri Republican and author of the resolution, described Mr. Biden’s water rule as an “outrageous government power grab.”

SEE ALSO: Biden wants to beef up EPA staff with 2,400 new agents

“While the Clean Water Act has greatly improved the health of our nation’s waters, expansive interpretations of it have led to a whole lot of uncertainty in the 50 years since it was passed,” he said.

Democrats say the rule, which falls under the purview of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and largely reinstates regulations rolled back under former President Donald Trump, is crucial to protect the nation’s water supplies and that concern about its scope impacting farmers is overblown.

“This debate we’re having today is only about clean water, and we need to put people and clean water above pollution,” said Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The resolution is the third privileged motion in as many weeks that House Republicans have passed to keep Senate Democrats off balance, with the others focusing on D.C. crime laws and mixing 401(k) investing with climate change.

Mr. Manchin has said he will vote for the GOP resolution against the water rule, likely giving Republicans the votes they need to scuttle it because of Democratic absences. Other Democrats up for reelection in farm states, including Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, remain tight-lipped.

But the debate over Mr. Biden’s water rule could soon be moot thanks to the Supreme Court, giving Senate Democrats more cover to buck the president.

The high court is expected to issue a ruling later this year in Sackett v. EPA that could alter which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of arguments made last year that streams and wetlands “adjacent” to larger bodies of water should also be protected under the Clean Water Act.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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