Fierce debate raged once again over a bill
that would allow exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
but its fate will most likely be decided in the Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 21.
On Tuesday morning – just five hours after
the full House of Representatives voted 308-106 to approve it – the Senate
began its debate over a $453 billion defense appropriations bill, which
contained the controversial ANWR drilling language.
The approval of ANWR in the House was a major
victory for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, chairman of the Defense Appropriations
subcommittee, who introduced the drilling language during a joint conference
committee. 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.
However, the ANWR language will now face a
new challenge. Opponents of the provision in the Senate are opposing its
inclusion, citing Senate Rule 28, which says that conferees “shall not insert
in their report matter not committed to them by either house,” which ANWR was
not – making the entire bill up for challenge by any Senator, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Stevens said that although he agreed with
Rule 28, other rules – which he did not specify – allowed for its temporary
waiver, making the ANWR language admittable.
“It’s not destroying the rule. It’s a
disagreement,” Stevens told the News-Miner. “We shouldn’t have people saying we’re breaking the rules.”
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.
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. dependence on foreign oil.
“I’m just doing my utmost to do my job, which
is getting ANWR passed,” Stevens told the News-Miner. “I’ve waited 25 years now. I don’t have another 25 years.”