Following an all-night lawmaking session
Monday, Dec. 19, the U.S. House of Representatives has given the go-ahead for
exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, making it the
last act of the legislative year.
Despite sharp criticism from Democrats and
moderate Republicans, the House voted 308-106 to include ANWR in a major $453
billion defense appropriations bill. In addition to ANWR, the bill – which
first saw controversy after Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, lobbied to include in it an
anti-torture measure – also provides money for Hurricane Katrina victims and
bird flu precautions.
The addition of ANWR is a major victory for
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee,
who introduced the drilling language. Stevens had said that he would not vote
in support of the appropriations unless ANWR was included in the package,
according to The Associated Press.
McCain and other moderates rebuked Stevens,
saying the inclusion of ANWR in a defense bill put them in a lose-lose
“There is something especially outrageous
about the willingness of the majority party leadership to allow the Defense
Department bill, in a time of war, to be held hostage to totally unrelated
special interest items,” Rep. David Obey, D-WI, told The AP.
However, Stevens has claimed that Arctic
drilling is a defense issue, since its success would raise an estimated $2.5
billion and could potentially reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil.
“I’m just doing my utmost to do my job, which
is getting ANWR passed,” Stevens told the Fairbanks
Daily News-Miner. “I’ve waited 25 years now. I don’t have another 25
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill
sometime early this week, The AP reported.