Yesterday we wrote about attempts by Senate Republicans to backdoor their way into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by slipping a provision into a budget bill. Today brings news that Senate Dems have failed in their attempt to slip it back out.

Voting along party lines, the Budget Committee’s 12 Republicans outvoted its 10 Democrats, rejecting Sen. Russell Feingold’s amendment that a budget bill is no place to change major federal policy.

Republicans are using the budget process only “because the majority doesn’t have enough votes to deal with this issue in the energy bill. The public doesn’t want it, the major oil companies don’t want it, and it’s just going to derail the budget process,” Feingold said.

This bit is also worth noting:

The refuge vote Thursday came amid a half-dozen votes on Democratic amendments that were all defeated 12-10, including provisions to restore health funds for veterans, require the government to seek lower prices for Medicare prescriptions by negotiating bulk purchases with pharmaceutical companies, and restore block grants for local communities and funding for “first responders” — police and fire.

In almost every case, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the committee chairman, said each measure would result in more taxation. Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the ranking Democrat, countered that in every case the Democrats had identified a revenue source for their amendments, while Republicans were spending the nation into ever larger deficits by refusing to pay for the programs they were promoting.

Ugh.

Attempts to circumvent open debate and pass unpopular measures by procedural trickery are nothing new for Congressional Republicans. If you’d like to learn about their abuse of Congressional rules and customs in great detail, this report (PDF) is a must-read.

The next step for the refuge is a fight on the Senate floor, probably next week. It will only take 51 Senators to pass the budget resolution and finally consummate the far-right wet dream of drilling on some of America’s last untouched land. Especially after this week’s loss on Clear Skies, it’s no longer about the incredibly flimsy justifications the administration offers. As I’ve said before: It’s just about power.

(If you’re feeling helpless, you could always go send a letter to your Congressperson.)