ANWR supporters pledge new attempt in coming years

| 12/23/2005

Although it failed in the Senate, lawmakers across Washington have vowed to pass a bill during the next legislative year that would allow exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Despite strident lobbying and what some considered rule-breaking behavior by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 21, denied the ANWR provision, which was part of a much larger $453 billion defense appropriations bill.

The bill failed when it was unable to acquire the necessary 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster by Democrats and moderate Republicans, who argued that the decision by Stevens – a Republican and chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee – to tack the measure onto a defense bill was disingenuous.

The bill was promptly withdrawn and rewritten without the ANWR language included, and was passed by the Senate two days later, according to CNN . However, ANWR supporters said they would still try to pass ANWR during a future legislative session, and that success will come if the language is not attached to a larger bill, such as defense appropriations.

“Those who oppose ANWR are willing to take any sort of risk to win,” Pete Domenici, R-NM, told Congressional Quarterly Today . “We've got to get it on a budget reconciliation bill with nothing else on it.”

The Senate began its debate over the bill on Tuesday morning, Dec. 20, just five hours after the full House of Representatives voted 308-106 to approve it.

The approval of ANWR and the defense bill in the House was a major victory for Stevens, who introduced the drilling language during a joint conference committee, and has been fighting to open the refuge to drilling for most of his 25-year Senatorial career, according to The Associated Press .

Critics of Stevens' ANWR provision in the Senate said the addition of the language during the conference committee violated 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. Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, told CNN that military funding was being “held hostage” by its inclusion.

“We all agree we want money for our troops,” Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, said in a statement. “This is not about the troops.”

Previously, Stevens had said that although he agreed with Rule 28, other rules – which he did not specify – allowed for its temporary waiver, making the ANWR language admissible.

“It's not destroying the rule. It's a disagreement,” Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily 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 $29 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, as well as funding for precautionary measures to fight bird flu.