Democrats Hope for Party Unity to Preserve Interior Stream Rule

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Stephen Lee

Democrats admit they don’t have the numbers to stop Republicans from repealing an Obama-era coal mining rule, but if they can vote against it as a bloc, they hope to frame the repeal bid as a nakedly partisan effort.

Doing so is aimed at convincing on-the-fence Republicans in the Senate to switch sides and vote down repeal, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told Bloomberg BNA.

Only 51 votes are needed to defeat the measure in the Senate under the Congressional Review Act.

The rule in question is the Interior Department’s so-called stream protection rule (RIN:1029-AC63), which limits where coal waste can be disposed.

On Feb. 1, the House will vote to use the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the rule. If both the House and Senate support repeal, and President Donald Trump signs off, the regulation will be stricken.

Senate Republicans Targeted

“We might be able to peel off some Republicans in the Senate,” Grijalva said. “Certainly, the effort right now is to make sure our side of the aisle is unified. I’m sure we’ll lose some, but we don’t need to lose a host of Democratic members. If that happens, then [Republicans] can leave this floor and say, ‘It’s a bipartisan bill.’ We want it to be a partisan bill, and take it to the Senate with that kind of attention.”

If all 46 Senate Democrats vote against the Congressional Review Act, along with the two Independents who caucus with them, Democrats will need to convince three Republicans to switch sides.

But, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said Jan. 27 he feels confident Republicans have the votes in the Senate to claw back the stream rule.

Formal resolutions to invoke the Congressional Review Act process were introduced in both the House and Senate Jan. 30.

Camel’s Nose Under the Tent

Grijalva further said Senate Republicans may feel pressure from public health advocates and communities affected by mountaintop removal mining.

“As it moves through the Senate, I hope they hear more and more public involvement and understanding,” Grijalva said. “But this is just the camel’s nose peeking out of the tent. That’s why it’s so important to put unified opposition.”

A coalition of 124 public interest groups sent a letter to Congress Jan. 30, urging members to spurn the Congressional Review Act votes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington, D.C. at stephenlee@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Try Environment & Energy Report