The House voted on Thursday to overturn the Biden administration’s water regulations — a goal that’s not expected to come to fruition but one that gave Republicans another chance to force some Democrats into a tough vote.
The House voted 227-198 to eliminate a Biden administration rule that governs which waters are subject to federal regulations under the Waters of the United States. Nine Democrats voted for the measure, while one Republican opposed it.
The rule in question designates which waters require permits for activities like construction and mining that may hurt water quality, deciding what counts as Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.
The Biden administration takes a broader view than its predecessor on which waters are subject to protection. However, prior to the Biden regulations, the narrower regulations from the era of former President Trump were also not in effect after they were taken down in court.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) voted with Democrats against the measure, while Democratic Reps. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Donald Davis (N.C.), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Jimmy Panetta (Calif.) and David Scott (Ga.) voted with Republicans in favor of it.
The resolution will head to the Senate, where its prospects are unclear. The resolution only requires a simple majority to pass the chamber, which Democrats control 51-49, and is expected to be taken up next week.
A spokesperson for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told The Hill earlier this week that the senator would ultimately vote with Republicans to get rid of the Biden regulation. Fellow swing vote Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he was undecided. Both are among the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2024.
Complicating things more for Democrats, Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) are out for medical reasons.
However, the White House has already said Biden would veto the measure if it makes it to his desk.
A White House statement threatening the veto said getting rid of the Biden rule would lead to an “uncertain, fragmented, and watered-down regulatory system.”
It said that the rule “provides clear rules of the road that will help advance infrastructure projects, economic investments, and agricultural activities—all while protecting water quality.”
On the other hand, supporters of the effort to get rid of the regulations say that they are too stringent.
“Returning to a more costly, burdensome, and broad [Waters of the United States] definition could have a massive impact on local communities and Americans’ ability to do their jobs and manage their own private property,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in a Thursday floor speech.
The resolution is the second Biden regulation that the House has voted to get rid of in as many weeks, recently going after a Biden rule that clarified that environmental and social considerations could be part of money managers’ considerations for retirement investing.
The Senate passed that resolution but Biden is expected to veto it as well.
The water fight that the House waded into on Wednesday is also the subject of a pending Supreme Court case, where justices are weighing whether to narrow which bodies of water the federal government can regulate.
Updated at 5:25 p.m.