Arctic Refuge Protected, Senators Threatened
In what may be the most significant triumph for environmentalists since President Bush took office, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday against opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Advocates of drilling fell two votes short of their goal, with seven Republicans voting with Democrats to protect the refuge by removing a drilling measure from the budget resolution under consideration. All four senators who had been thought to be on the fence on oil drilling voted against it, much to the rage of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Moments before the vote, Stevens warned senators that, “People who vote against this today are voting against me — and I will not forget it.” Coming from the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, the words sounded unmistakably like a threat, and Stevens acknowledged that he would keep the Arctic refuge voting record in mind when writing annual spending bills. He also promised that the fight wasn’t over yet, but environmentalists breathed a sigh of relief over the victory nonetheless.