With the support of 12 Democrats,the House has voted to overturn the EPA’s attempt to seize control of virtually all waterways across the country. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of federal overreach.
The federal government, using the EPA as its shock troops and the Clean Water Act as its warrant, has long had ideas about controlling privately owned land through the regulation of waterways. While the EPA has been acting with authority over “navigable waterways” since the 1972 Clean Water Act became law, it earlier this year extended, without congressional input, that authority through its “clean water rule.”
The Obama administration excused this attempted appropriation as nothing more than an effort to save the nation’s streams, headwaters, creeks and wetlands from “pollution and degradation.” In reality, the EPA simply wanted to expand its command over such near-waterless features as dry creeks, potholes and puddles . Under this regime, private individuals or businesses would need government permission to do anything on their property that is even remotely related to water — such as digging a drainage ditch — giving Washington sweeping powers over private lands.
A federal judge told the EPA in August that it had gone too far, but the EPA responded with a shrug and said it would continue to impose the rule in the 37 states that weren’t part of the lawsuit.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the EPA’s rule a “power grab” on Wednesday, the same day the House voted 253-166 to overturn the rule. It’s the same resolution that was passed in the Senate in November, and now it will be sent to President Obama’s desk.
Obama is as eager as any Washington politician who has ever lived to hand the federal government greater control over Americans — whom he sees more as subjects than citizens — so of course he will veto the bill.
But this resolution is the exactly the sort of thing that the Republicans were sent to Washington to do. This president has made a regular practice of bypassing Congress to consolidate more power in the federal apparatus, and a strong opposition has been needed — and will continue to be. There’s a lot he’s done that needs undoing.