The House is scheduled on Thursday to vote on a package of three Republican-led bills that would ease regulations governing cleanup of hazardous waste sites and weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over states, despite the fact that President Obama on Wednesday said he would veto the bills if they pass both houses.
The consolidated package of three bills was introduced by Reps. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Bob Latta (R-OH), and approved last year by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
If signed into law, the bills would weaken the Solid Waste Disposal Act — an amendment to the Clean Air Act which regulates open air burning of trash — by removing requirements that the EPA review those regulations every 3 years. The bills would also give Congress more power under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which regulates hazardous waste site cleanup, and take away some power from the EPA.
“The bill’s requirements could result in significant site cleanup delays, endangering public health and the environment,” the White House said in its Wednesday statement. The bills are unlikely to pass the Senate.
The situation mimics this past November, when House Republicans voted to pass two bills that would, among other things, impose a $5,000 filing fee on any individual that wanted to file an official protest of a drilling project. President Obama had threatened to veto those bills as well, but House leadership still proceeded with the vote.
The reality that the House was wasting time on legislation extremely unlikely to become law made for a visibly tense situation on the sparsely populated House floor, with some Democratic Representatives complaining that their time could have been used to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or a farm bill to support a struggling agriculture industry.
“The galleries are empty, the floor is empty, because we’re not doing anything,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on the floor at the time. “And it’s not because we don’t have a lot of things to do.”
The bill package passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 225–188, with four Republicans voting against and five Democrats voting for. The Republicans who voted against the bill were Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), and Chris Smith (R-NJ). The Democrats who voted for the bill were Reps. Jim Costa (D-CA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Nick Rahall, (D-WV), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR).