- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The House is poised Wednesday to reject President Biden’s expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction over streams and wetlands in the name of conservation, advancing the issue to the Senate.

It’s the latest in a series of successful moves by the House GOP to force Senate Democrats to take tough votes on Mr. Biden’s policies.

“It’s a demonstration that politics works,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, told The Washington Times. “Casting tough votes is what we do, casting tough votes is what we’re supported to do and casting tough votes close to elections often causes people to moderate their views a little bit.”

Congress delivered Mr. Biden his first bipartisan rebuke last week by passing a Congressional Review Act resolution scuttling his 401(k) rule that allows retirement managers to consider climate change and social justice politics, known as environmental, social and corporate governance investing, or ESG. The move is forcing the president to issue his first veto.

Republicans narrowly shot down the ESG rule with the help of two Democratic senators facing reelection challenges next year in ruby red states: Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

Republicans will score more victories this week, including the House vote against Mr. Biden’s EPA water rule, known as the Waters of the United States. Republicans are believed to already have the votes in the Senate to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution and block the rule, which otherwise will take effect on March 20. They already have one Democrat declaring he will cross party lines to defeat the rule: Mr. Manchin.

Mr. Tester says he is undecided. 

The rule expands the definition of protected waters by the federal government, drawing concerns from Republicans that it would jeopardize farmland that has even the smallest creeks or ravines. It’s putting other Democrats on the ballot in farm states in precarious positions, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Like the vote dismantling Mr. Biden’s ESG rule, the president has vowed to veto any effort to overturn his rule on waters.

For some Democrats, these votes provide an opportunity to distance themselves from Mr. Biden who remains underwater in approval ratings. 

Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, chair of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said his incumbents are focused on the issues, not the election.

“I know that both Sen. Tester and Sen. Brown are always thinking about what’s right for their state. They’ve always shown independence to always fight for their state,” he told The Times. “I’m sure their votes will reflect that.”

A senior Senate GOP aide said Democrats’ assertions of “independence” are moot because Republicans are the ones forcing votes that the Democratic-led chamber would otherwise avoid.

Senate Democrats will also be tested Wednesday when they vote on whether to override a new criminal code from D.C. Council that would weaken penalties for violent crime at a time when homicides and carjackings are surging in the nation’s capital. The council tried to withdraw the proposal — which local Democrats rammed through after overcoming the mayor’s veto — but it was too little, too late. House Republicans already passed a privileged measure to overrule the new criminal penalties, forcing Senate Democrats’ hands.

Mr. Biden said he wouldn’t veto the GOP measure, reversing his long-held opposition to Congress mingling in the city’s decisions. The about-face infuriated House Democrats, who voted against it before Mr. Biden changed course. 

The president is being slapped with criticism that he left his party hanging out to dry while Republicans take a victory lap.

“There appears to be a different kind of jailbreak brewing here in the Senate, and a number of Democrats may jump ship at the 11th hour, trying to act like they’ve been tough on crime all along,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on the chamber floor. “It is not an act of heroic political courage for Democrats to help Congress do our basic minimum job and stop the D.C. Council from making an unacceptable status quo even worse.”

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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