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Senate Passes Bill to Block Controversial Water Rule; Reid Brands Effort 'Show Vote'

Without some action, Ernst said WOTUS “would give EPA the authority to expand its power over family farms, small businesses, ranchers and other landowners in our rural communities.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who has been engaged in a running battle with the EPA over clean air and clean water regulations, warned that the new rule “would place virtually all private property near a ditch, pothole or puddle under the thumb of federal bureaucrats.”

“This cynical, indefensible and unprecedented power grab would force citizens to seek federal permission before doing just about anything with their own property,” McConnell said. “Thirty-one states have already filed suit against this draconian regulation, and two federal courts have ruled that it is likely illegal.”

The White House has made it clear it opposes the Ernst legislation, issuing a statement that asserted EPA’s rulemaking is “grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The final rule, the administration insisted, “has been through an extensive public engagement process."

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, accused majority Republicans of wasting the upper chamber’s time by engaging in “show votes,” fully knowing that Obama will veto any measure stopping the rule. The Ernst bill, he said would “nullify drinking water protections for 117 million Americans.”

“The Obama administration’s clean water rule will restore important safeguards that protect American water sources from pollution and contamination,” Reid said. “This landmark rule from the Obama Administration will finally resolve years of confusion and provide regulatory certainty for businesses, farmers, local governments and communities without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions.”

But, Reid said, “Republicans in Congress are intent on undermining these important protections.”

The vote on the Ernst bill came only after Republicans failed to overcome a filibuster on legislation offered by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), intended to rescind WOTUS and require the EPA to restart the regulatory process with additional input from farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses.

Barrasso said the provisions found in WOTUS “are sweeping, and will create unnecessary and uncertainty activities in communities across the country.”

“It’s bad for agriculture with the many methods it provides for federalizing previously state-controlled water,” Barrasso said. “States have made these decisions in the past. Now we're adding another level of government bureaucracy. This rule is bad for agriculture. For those people who produce our food. Farmers, ranchers, and others are used to working with their states to protect their land and water under that you are own stewardship.”