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House fails to override Joe Biden veto of bill targeting EPA authority over waterways

The House was unable to muster a two-thirds majority on Tuesday to override President Biden’s veto of legislation to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s expanded authority over streams and wetlands, delivering a win to the president’s climate agenda.

Congress passed Republican-led legislation earlier this month scuttling Mr. Biden’s rule over small waterways, called the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

Critics feared the rule would jeopardize farmland with federal protections over things like creeks, ravines and drainage ditches, and Republicans decried it as government overreach.

“Decades of agency interpretations and misinterpretations of [waters of the United States] have created a lot of uncertainty for rural communities, farmers, businesses and industries that rely on clean water,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves, Missouri Republican. “This rule does absolutely nothing to provide clarity.”

The House voted 227-196 Tuesday to override the veto that Mr. Biden issued last week, more than 50 votes short of the number needed to overturn it.

The partisan breakdown closely mirrored that of when the bill to roll back Mr. Biden’s water rule first passed, with several Democrats siding with Republicans to override the president.

The vote marked the second failed attempt to override one of Mr. Biden’s vetoes. The first came last month when Republicans sought to scuttle a rule allowing climate-conscience ESG investing in Americans’ 401(k) plans.

Mr. Biden’s water regulation also created unity in the Senate when it was first passed by Congress. Four Democrats and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who caucuses with Democrats, voted with Republicans to pass the GOP-led legislation.

The White House and Democrats who backed Mr. Biden’s rule said it is necessary to protect the country’s clean water sources and prevent potential hazardous runoff.

“Farmers would be left wondering whether artificially irrigated areas remain excluded or not. Construction crews would be left wondering whether their water-filled gravel pits remain excluded or not,” Mr. Biden said in his veto message. “The resolution would also negatively affect tens of millions of United States households that depend on healthy wetlands and streams.”

However, the bickering in Washington may soon be moot thanks to the Supreme Court.

The justices will rule later this year on Sackett v. EPA, a case in which the high court will determine whether wetlands and other bodies of water are under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

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