Nine Democrats vote to overturn Biden's water regulation

 March 10, 2023

With help from a handful of Democrats, House Republicans passed a resolution Thursday to undo President Biden's crushing federal water regulations.

Nine Democrats crossed the aisle to reject Biden's rule, which restores the broader scope of water regulation imposed by President Obama.

Obama's 2015 "Waters of the United States" rule expanded the definition of which waterways fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The rule was slashed by President Trump, who made easing the regulatory burden on small business owners a priority.

Dems turn on Biden

President Biden enacted his own water regulations in December, but House Republicans intervened under the Congressional Review Act.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Biden's rule "expands the federal government’s regulatory power and places the burden on small businesses, farmers, local communities, manufacturers, and private property owners.”

The nine House Democrats who voted to overturn the rule are Reps. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Jim Costa (Ca.), Angie Craig (Mn.), Henry Cuellar (Tx.), Don Davis (Nc.), Jared Golden (Me.), Vicente Gonzalez (Tx.), Jimmy Panetta (Ca.), and David Scott (Ga.).

“Let me be clear: clean water is important to all – farmers and our agricultural communities depend on it for their livelihoods. What I cannot support is a rule that creates uncertainty for our farmers,” Davis said.

One Republican, Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), voted with Democrats to keep Biden's rule.

Federal overreach

Conservative opponents of broad federal water regulations have long said they burden farmers, builders, and homeowners. The Supreme Court is currently weighing the case of an Idaho couple that has been blocked from building a home near a lake for 15 years because of permitting rules.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has said Biden's rule "will impose a quagmire of regulatory uncertainty on large areas of private farmland miles from the nearest navigable water."

The vote to repeal Biden's rule is part of a Republican effort to pressure vulnerable Democrats ahead of the 2024 election cycle. Senator Joe Manchin (Wv.) has said he will vote to overturn Biden's water rule, and Jon Tester (Mt.) may do the same. Both senators are seeking re-election in Trump-friendly states.

Manchin said the Biden rule "would interject further regulatory confusion, place unnecessary burdens on small businesses, farmers and local communities, and cause serious economic damage.”

Democrats have narrow control of the Senate, and the resolution only needs a simple majority to pass -- but Biden has pledged to veto it.

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