Biden vetoes attempt to repeal WOTUS rule on wetlands
Water tupelo near a walkway in Louisiana Purchase State Park near Brinkley, Arkansas. (Courtesy of Arkansas State Parks)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday vetoed a measure that would repeal a rule expanding which types of wetlands can be regulated under the Clean Water Act.
Biden promised to veto the legislation that saw Democrats crossing party lines in both chambers to join Republicans in rolling back a rule that is unpopular with the agriculture industry. Farmers see the regulation as an obstacle to operations on private property with wetlands that might fall under the administration’s new scope of Waters of the United States, or WOTUS.
Biden said Thursday his 2023 revised definition “provides clear rules of the road” for which wetlands qualify, and that rollback would “negatively affect tens of millions of United States households that depend on healthy wetlands and streams.”
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, as well as independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, joined their GOP counterparts in a 53-43 vote on March 29.
The legislation was not subject to the Senate’s usual 60-vote filibuster, because Republicans forced a vote under the Congressional Review Act that allows for Congress to challenge recent executive branch decisions.
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed the updated WOTUS definition in late 2021 and the final rule went into effect March 20.
Nine House Democrats crossed party lines on March 10 to repeal the new rule. They included two Georgia lawmakers, Reps. David Scott and Sanford Bishop, who respectively hold ranking member spots on the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee.
Defining which wetlands qualify under WOTUS has been a yearslong issue. The EPA under former President Barack Obama established a new definition, which was then narrowed under the Trump administration.
The contentious issue has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to decide on the Obama-era rule this session after an Idaho couple challenged it.
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