Senate Democrats blocked the Coast Guard Authorization Act today on concerns over a provision that they feared would increase water pollution and introduce invasive species to the Great Lakes.
The legislation included the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which would limit states’ power to regulate ballast water discharges and give the Coast Guard oversight instead of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Maritime shippers have complained that they have become ensnared in a web of different regulations, but opponents of VIDA have argued that states have different environmental concerns, such as the introduction of zebra mussels to the Great Lakes.
“The Coast Guard legislation on the floor today included a dangerous ballast water provision that would allow for the spread of invasive species in our Great Lakes, hurting local communities and our coastal economy,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said in a statement. “I cannot support legislation that harms our nation’s Great Lakes, so I led my colleagues to stand against this legislation.”
“Now that it’s clear this bill will not pass, we should remove the ballast water provision and pass a bill that supports our Coast Guard, protects our Great Lakes and helps our coastal economy,” she added.
The cloture vote was 56-42, short of the 60-vote threshold needed for the bill to advance.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted opponents on the floor, arguing the Coast Guard doesn’t “deserve a filibuster for the sake of political posturing.”
“Democrats filibustered this legislation because it contains an eminently sensible, bipartisan provision to streamline regulations for the mariners and vessel operators who drive America’s maritime economy,” McConnell said. “It would cut back on duplicative rules and overlapping enforcement, and provide a uniform standard that protects the environment and commerce alike. Now, if this sounds like a commonsense, bipartisan measure, that’s because it is.”