From Congressional Quarterly:
Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens said Thursday that House and Senate appropriators have agreed to attach drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the Defense bill in conference, though it is unclear if he can muster the 60 votes needed to end a filbuster on the legislation that the move would provoke.
“We’ve agreed to put ANWR on it so we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen,” said Stevens, R-Alaska. “The leaders of the subcommittee on both sides have agreed. They will support it so I think it will pass.”
Stevens, a staunch supporter of energy exploration in ANWR, had outlined a gambit Wednesday to link drilling in the region to hurricane relief aid that also will likely be attached to the Defense spending measure (HR 2863) in the hope that Gulf Coast lawmakers would vote with him. Tying the measure to support for the troops makes voting to sustain a filibuster doubly hard.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., made it clear to Senate leaders earlier this week that ANWR drilling cannot pass in the House on the budget savings package, and suggested using the Defense Appropriations conference report as the alternate vehicle, according to a Senate GOP aide.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who voted against the Senate budget savings package largely because of his opposition to ANWR drilling, said it would put him in a difficult position if ANWR were attached to the final Defense spending bill.
“I have a clear position on ANWR. I have a clear position on supporting our troops,” Coleman said.
Some Democrats attacked Stevens’ plan Thursday.
“Like Ahab, certain Republicans are so dedicated to a lost cause that they have lost their reason in the process,” said Rep. Ed J. Markey, D-Mass., in a statement. Markey said adding ANWR to the Defense appropriations bill would slow down the approval of funding for the troops.
“Let us hope that those who captain the Senate will turn this ship around before it founders on a filibuster,” Markey said.