The House this week passed a bill that would force the withdrawal of a rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Crop of Engineers, which would clarify which waters are considered “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act, and that are, therefore, subject to federal protections.

The rule would have to be withdrawn within 30 days of the bill’s enactment, and the agencies would have to develop a new rule that relies on further consultation and comment from organizations on all sides and state and local officials.

The House bill also specifically lists those waters covered and not covered by the Clean Water Act.  The measure passed on a 261-155 vote.  However the bill’s requirements are unlikely to be enacted because the White House has said it will veto the legislation if passed.

Congressional Republicans criticized the proposed version of the rule but EPA officials said that the final draft is significantly revised based on input from interested parties, including farm groups, developers, and state and local officials.  Democrats questioned the necessity of passing legislation that would force the withdrawal of a rule no one in Congress has yet seen.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) agreed that the rule, as initially proposed, was “garbled” and raised more questions than it answered, but said he needed to see the revised draft sent to the Office of Management and Budget before supporting a bill to withdraw it. DeFazio also said he has already drafted a joint congressional resolution of disapproval for the rule, and that Congress could seek its withdrawal through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), through which Congress can nullify regulations after they are issued. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) said waiting to act until after the rule is finalized is not an option since the president would have to sign a CRA challenge.

Action now moves to the Senate where proponents are working to secure 6o votes for consideration.