Senate Fails to Override Veto of WOTUS Rule
January 22, 2016

The Senate on Thursday failed to open debate on an override of President Obama's veto of a resolution to block the controversial Waters of the United States rule by a vote of 53-40. Under the Congressional Review Act, the resolution requires 60 votes to advance.

The WOTUS regulation was proposed in April 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify the agencies' authority under the Clean Water Act over various waters. That jurisdiction - based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions - included navigable waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The rule broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also encompassed lands adjacent to such waters.

Last week, the House approved on a 253-168 vote the resolution sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst that overrules the CWA regulation. The resolution passed the Senate in November by a vote of 53-44.

Opponents of the WOTUS rule are pursuing a legal remedy to stop the regulation. A federal appeals court in October temporarily halted implementation of the rule, which took effect Aug. 28, 2015. Agricultural organizations, as well as the attorneys general of nearly 30 states, brought lawsuits against the WOTUS rule. In their suit, the farm groups alleged, among other things, that EPA engaged in an advocacy campaign during the comment period, a violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act. A U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation determined that the EPA illegally spent taxpayer dollars on "propaganda" and "grassroots lobbying efforts" in an effort to build support for the rule.