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Senate votes to disapprove Waters of the U.S. rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution to do away with the controversial Waters of the U.S. rule. But opponents of the legislation still need to overcome a presidential veto, which they say they're unlikely to do.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution to do away with the controversial Waters of the U.S. rule. But opponents of the legislation still need to overcome a presidential veto, which they say they're unlikely to do.

WOTUS, as it's commonly known, would redefine how "waters of the United States" are subject to federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. A wide range of farm groups oppose the legislation.

Wednesday's Resolution of Disapproval passed 53-44. It came under the Congressional Review Act, which authorizes Congress by majority vote to repeal actions by a federal agency after a rule is formally published and submitted to Congress.

The U.S. House will take up the resolution now and is expected to approve it, as well. But President Barack Obama is likely to veto the resolution, and overturning a veto would require 67 votes in the Senate.

Obtaining 67 votes in highly unlikely, saidSen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who opposes WOTUS. So he's working to eliminate it through the appropriations process.

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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D.-N.D., also voted for the resolution of disapproval. She's been a vocal critic of WOTUS and says she will continue to work with Republican and Democratic senators to reach a compromise to fix it.

Wednesday's resolution followed an unsuccessful effort on Tuesday by WOTUS opponents in the Senate to block its implementation. Forty-one senators voted against Tuesday's attempt, enough to prevent the bill from a vote on the floor. The bill, which needed 60 votes to receive a full debate, fell three votes short, 57-41.

The margin of that vote makes it unlikely WOTUS opponents would receive the 67 votes needed to overturn a presidential veto.

Wednesday's resolution of disapproval was welcomed by Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Newburg, Md.

"Thank you to the bipartisan group of senators who have recognized that the Waters of the U.S. rule did not work," he said in a news release. "America's farmers and ranchers care deeply about clean water, and we are committed to protecting it for future generations. But this rule is not based on science or law, does not clarify farmers' responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and will not improve water quality."

The organization is hopeful that "cooperation and dialogue can win the day," he said.

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