Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Senate Rejects Oil Drilling in ANWR

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the caribou, musk oxen, migratory birds, and other biological life within its 1.5 million acres, have been saved, for now at least, from destruction by oil drillers.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), a key cheerleader for oil drilling, tried to force the drilling plan through by tying it to a defense spending bill for ongoing operational expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the tactic backfired on him.

The failure of drilling advocates to push forward a measure that has spent so long on the brink of passage highlights some complicated politics within the Republican Party. GOP leaders had to back down earlier this year when moderate Republicans in the House protested a move to add it to a comprehensive budget bill.

But Stevens, the Senate's most influential drilling proponent, refused to back down, tacking the measure onto the defense spending measure. His blunt lobbying tactics were even directed toward his GOP colleagues. In an e-mail, he said that if the defense bill failed to go through this would upend the budget process generally -- endangering favored projects in their states.

The warning worked with moderate GOP Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine.), who issued a statement yesterday after the vote saying that she worried an impasse over the defense appropriations bill would endanger subsidized low-income heating funds.

Two key Republicans, Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio), were unmoved, arguing that Arctic drilling would not solve the nation's energy problems.

"We've got to find other ways to be energy independent," DeWine said in an interview.

In a rare display of common sense and logical thinking, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, along with a number of other Democratic leaders, castigated Sen. Stevens for his willingness to hold military spending hostage to drilling for oil in Alaska. Lieberman accused Stevens of "threatening support for our troops in the middle of a war."

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