President Joe Biden on Thursday vetoed a resolution that would have rescinded his administration’s hallmark water rule, with proponents of the rollback arguing that the regulation places a burden on the agriculture community by being too restrictive in defining what is a navigable waterway.
Biden’s announcement marked both the second veto of his presidency and the second veto he’s issued in recent weeks, illustrating how power dynamics in Washington have shifted since Republicans became the majority party in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this year.
“I just vetoed a bill that attempted to block our Administration from protecting our nation’s waterways – a resource millions of Americans depend on – from destruction and pollution,” the president wrote in a tweet on Thursday. “Let me be clear: Every American has a right to clean water. This veto protects that right.”
When the White House issued a veto threat over the Republican-led resolution, the administration argued that the legislation would “leave Americans without a clear ‘waters of the United States’ definition.”
“The increased uncertainty would threaten economic growth, including for agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities. Farmers would be left wondering whether artificially irrigated areas remain exempt or not. Construction crews would be left wondering whether their waterfilled gravel pits remain exempt or not,” a statement of administration policy said in advance of the veto.
By comparison, proponents of the resolution argued that Biden’s water rule constituted overreach by the executive branch and say it creates burdensome red tape that would lead to confusion within a variety of industries, including agriculture.
“By vetoing this Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval, President Biden is ignoring the will of a bipartisan majority in Congress, leaving millions of Americans in limbo, and crippling future energy and infrastructure projects with red tape,” West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who led the joint resolution in the Senate, said in a statement on Thursday. “There’s a reason those who work in agriculture, building, mining, and small businesses of all kinds across America strongly supported our effort to block the Biden waters rule, and I’m disappointed the president chose to stand by his blatant executive overreach.”
The waterways resolution cleared the House in March and the final Senate vote was 53-43, with Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema joining Republicans in support of the legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement in support of the bill on Wednesday saying, “If the President vetoes it, Americans will need to hope the Supreme Court makes it clear that these EPA bureaucrats are way outside the authority that Congress actually provided in the Clean Water Act.”
Manchin, who backed the repeal, was asked last month if he would vote to overturn the administration’s new EPA rule. He said: “Oh yeah, that’s ridiculous. It can’t be just a ditch that dries up. They’ll grab everything and make it miserable for you. The overreach.”
Earlier this year, Biden issued the first veto of his presidency on another environment-focused resolution which aimed to overturn a retirement investment rule that allows managers of retirement funds to consider the impact of climate change and other environmental, social and governance factors when picking investments.
Republican lawmakers led the push to pass the resolution through Congress, arguing the rule is “woke” policy that pushes a liberal agenda on Americans and will hurt retirees’ bottom lines, while Democrats say it’s not about ideology and will help investors.
Biden has frequently promised to veto legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House he disagrees with. Even before Republicans took control of that chamber, Biden often mentioned his ability to nix their priorities. “The good news is I’ll have a veto pen,” he told a group of donors in Chicago just days before November’s midterm elections.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Ali Zazlav, Ted Barrett, Betsy Klein and Clare Foran contributed to this report.