House, Senate take aim at WOTUS, Cuba

A bipartisan bill was passed on March 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives to disapprove the Biden’s administration’s Waters of the United States rule.

The acton was a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.

The legislation was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-MO; Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer, R-NC; House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-PA; and Congressman Frank Lucas, R-OK. The resolution passed with a bipartisan vote of 227-198.

“The last thing they need is this administration’s inexplicable decision to move the country back toward the overreaching, costly, and burdensome regulations of the past, which is exactly what this WOTUS rule does,”  Graves said.

“Oklahoma’s farmers, ranchers, landowners, and small business owners are feeling the squeeze of record inflation, high input costs, supply chain constraints—and on top of all that burdensome regulations of the Biden administration. Oklahomans deserve a WOTUS definition that provides clarity, regulatory certainty, and allows them to continue to be responsible stewards of their land,”  Lucas said. 

If signed into law, the House Joint Resolution would terminate the Biden WOTUS rulemaking utilizing the CRA, which provides a mechanism for Congress to overturn certain final agency actions. An identical Senate Joint Resolution, led by Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, was also introduced in the Senate. 

On Dec. 30, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a final rule to again redefine WOTUS per the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the Sackett vs. EPA that could supersede the new rule.


Cuban embargo to end?

A bipartisan coalition of senators is seeking legislation to lift the trade embargo with Cuba. Jerry Moran, R-KS, and Roger Marshall, R-KS, joined their colleagues Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Chris Murphy, D-CT, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, in introducing the legislation March 10. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba and create new economic opportunities by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods.

The legislation repeals key provisions of existing laws that block Americans from doing business in Cuba, but keeps in place laws that address human rights or property claims against the Cuban government.

“The unilateral trade embargo on Cuba blocks our own farmers, ranchers and manufacturers from selling into a market only 90 miles from our shoreline, while foreign competitors benefit at our expense,” Moran said. “This legislation will expand market opportunities for U.S. producers by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other countries. ”

“Repealing the current legal restrictions and trade embargo on Cuba allows for Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers to expand their businesses to Cuba and opens the door to a large export market, while leaving in place measures to address human rights abuses,” Marshall said.

“By ending the trade embargo with Cuba once and for all, our bipartisan legislation will turn the page on the failed policy of isolation while creating a new export market and generating economic opportunities for American businesses,” Klobacher said.

The senators said the  Freedom to Export to Cuba Act repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.

Cuba relies on agricultural imports to feed the 11 million people who live there and the approximately 4 million tourists who visited in 2019 prior to the pandemic. The U.S. International Trade Commission found that if restrictions on trade with Cuba had been lifted, exports like wheat, rice, corn and soybeans could increase by 166% within five years to a total of about $800 million.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].

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