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Senate blocks legislation to undercut EPA clean water rules

WASHINGTON -- Democrats have blocked a Senate bill that would have forced the Obama administration to withdraw new federal rules to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands from development and pollution.

The 57-41 vote yesterday means Democrats have blocked the bill for now.

Most Democrats argue that the Obama administration rules will safeguard drinking water for 117 million Americans. The White House threatened a veto of the bill, saying the regulations are "essential to ensure clean water for future generations."

Republicans and a handful of Democrats say they fear a steady uptick in federal regulation of every stream and ditch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the regulations "a cynical and overbearing power grab dressed awkwardly as some clean-water measure."

The Senate bill, similar to legislation passed by the House earlier this year, would force the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw and rewrite the rules.

Four Democrats voted with Republicans on the measure: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Shortly after Democrats blocked the bill, the Senate voted to proceed to a so-called "resolution of disapproval" sponsored by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst that would scrap the rules if signed into law.

Only a simple majority is needed to pass the resolution, which could be approved as soon as today.-- AP

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