U.S. House approves adding ANWR drilling to defense bill

| Monday, December 19, 2005

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 situation.

“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 years.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime early this week, The AP reported.

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