By LIZ RUSKIN
Anchorage Daily News
November 09, 2005
"I'm not prepared to give up on ANWR yet," Majority Leader Roy Blunt told Capitol Hill reporters Tuesday.
On Tuesday, some 25 Republican moderates sent House leaders a letter asking them to remove ANWR from the budget reconciliation bill. Several of them, including three members from Connecticut, have said they'll never vote for the budget bill as long as ANWR is in it.
On the other hand, 41 Republicans, mostly from Western states, wrote the speaker of the House this week to say they'd have "very serious concerns" if ANWR is removed. One of them was Alaska Rep. Don Young.
"I don't have much incentive to vote for this (budget) reconciliation package itself, other than it'd be a lot better if ANWR was in it," he told Alaska reporters Tuesday. "There's some things I'm not really fond of myself, very frankly."
The bill would cut the growth of government programs by nearly $54 billion over five years. It would cut Medicaid, food stamps and student loans, among other programs. Young said the Medicaid cuts in particular would be bad for Alaska.
To pass their budget, Republicans can lose no more than 13 of their 231 votes. That assumes all Democrats vote against it, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said they would.
Young said it's too early to tell whether Republican leaders will sacrifice ANWR to pass the bill. By his count, they need about 16 more votes for the package. Removing ANWR would gain moderate votes, but "if you pull ANWR out of it, you're going to lose some votes on our side," he said.
Blunt said he expects to have a majority when he brings the budget bill to the floor on Thursday.
Even if ANWR is not in it, the refuge may yet be opened to development this year. That's because the Senate passed its own version of the bill, and it includes ANWR drilling. If the House passes a bill, House and Senate negotiators will have to work on the differences. They may add ANWR to the final compromise, which would have to go before the House and Senate one more time.
Young wasn't making any predictions Tuesday.
"I'm always optimistic, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," he said. "I've been fighting this battle for so long, and I've won most of the times. I'm hoping that we're successful this time. But I'm not going to jump off of a bridge if we don't win."
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