Thursday, November 10, 2005

Saving the ANWR at the Expense of Poor People

Of course I'm happy that the plan to open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling was scuttled -- but I'm not happy about the trade-off. In return for moderate House Republicans' agreement to support Pres. Bush's plan to reduce the deficit by slashing funds for food stamps, child support enforcement, Medicaid, and other essential domestic human needs programs, Republican leaders in the House acquieced to dropping the ANWR drilling plan. In short, House Republicans assured the passage of a bill that will screw poor and disabled Americans by agreeing not to screw the environment in Alaska.

UPDATE: It seems that moderate House Republicans have gotten to have their cake and eat it, too.

House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by moderate lawmakers over cuts to Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs.

The episode marked a setback for Republicans on Capitol Hill. They had hoped to use the budget debate to burnish their deficit-cutting credentials with the public and their core political supporters, many of whom are disappointed with their party's performance on spending.

The decision by GOP leaders came despite a big concession to moderates Wednesday, when the leaders dropped provisions to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as well as a plan letting states lift a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

But moderates countered that the spending cuts in the House budget plan were a separate issue from Arctic drilling. The cuts were too severe, moderates argued, especially when compared with a significantly milder Senate budget plan that passed last week.

Democrats mounted a furious attack on the GOP budget plan for its cuts to social programs and pounded home the message that the overall GOP plan would increase the deficit when coupled with a subsequent tax cut bill.

"The Republican Congress is about to slash more than $50 billion from investments in our children's future in health care and education," said Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the campaign arm for House Democrats. "And yet, because of Republican priorities, they are going to actually add $20 billion to our budget deficit. ... Only in a Republican Congress."

Republican leaders said the postponement of the vote was simply a modest setback and that the budget effort would get back on track next week.

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