Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has spent the last week or so — nay, the last 25 years — attempting to circumvent the clearly and repeatedly expressed preferences of a majority of U.S. citizens by allowing oil drilling to take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The latest attempt involved attaching drilling to the defense appropriations bill, in effect holding military funding hostage in the middle of an armed conflict.
We have perhaps become numbed by the sheer repetition and persistence of these efforts, but it’s worth pausing, stepping back, and noting just how utterly venal and anti-democratic they are. The country would not benefit from Refuge oil. It would be sold on the world market just like any other oil. Oil companies and the state of Alaska would benefit. For that, Stevens is willing to make a mockery of legislative procedure and tradition.
Stevens’ latest defeat produced a self-pitying, thumb-sucking tantrum on the floor of the Senate. He said it was the "saddest day of his life." He also threatened his fellow Senators, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in particular:
"I’m going to go to every one of your states, and I’m going to tell them what you’ve done," he told colleagues who voted against the measure. "You’ve taken away from homeland security the one source of revenue that was new … I’m sure that the senator from Washington [Cantwell] will enjoy my visits to Washington."
He also, in effect, threatened to quit, saying "It’s a day I don’t want to remember. I say goodbye to the Senate tonight. Thank you very much." You can watch a little bit of the pathetic performance here (via Atrios).
(It’s worth noting that when Refuge drilling came out of the defense bill, so did assistance for low-income people to heat their houses. The LIHEAP program will receive less funding this year than last year, despite record high heating prices. Maybe Stevens should shed a tear over that.)
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