By LIZ RUSKIN
December 16, 2005
"It's going to be awfully hard to vote against Katrina," the Alaska Republican said.
ANWR oil leasing would raise federal revenue, and Stevens said he wants the House to agree to spend some on the hurricane-damaged states.
"And if it's in there, maybe disaster-area people will vote with me on ANWR," he said.
Stevens also confirmed that one option he is considering is to push ANWR drilling as part of the defense spending bill, which he said would be "a little bit attractive" with the inclusion of Katrina money.
In any case, Stevens said he's not leaving Washington until he gets a bill that includes ANWR, even if that means keeping senators in Washington through the year-end holidays.
"Recess comes when we're finished, and that's one of the things we've got to finish," Stevens told reporters. "I've waited 25 years for this. Twenty-five years."
He and other drilling supporters have been rooting for ANWR to be part of a five-year budget package. But, as the clock runs out on the 2005 session of Congress, the budget bill is foundering and ANWR is weighing it down in the House.
So Stevens is looking to one of the final bills Congress hopes to pass before leaving for the holidays: the defense appropriations bill.
"It's going to be on one bill or the other before I go home," he said.
Senate leaders hope to wind up the 2005 session by the weekend.
The Senate approved ANWR drilling last month when it passed a five-year budget reconciliation bill. But Republican moderates in the House rebelled against their party leaders and insisted on removing the ANWR provision.
By all accounts, ANWR remains a giant hurdle in the House. Drilling proponents have tried to win over Democrats from oil-producing states, but it's unclear whether even one House Democrat has agreed to vote for the budget, which also includes controversial cuts in services to poor people.
House Majority Leader Roy Blunt said this week that passing a budget bill with ANWR drilling "is clearly something that's very difficult for us to do."
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., a steadfast drilling supporter, said he no longer thinks it's possible to pass ANWR on the budget bill.
But using the defense spending bill to permit oil development in the Arctic Refuge would also be tough. In the Senate, regular spending bills, unlike a budget reconciliation bill, can be stalled indefinitely by filibuster, and drilling opponents have used that tactic to kill previous ANWR bills. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. In recent years there haven't been that many senators in favor of ANWR drilling.
On the other hand, senators would have a lot of reasons not to block the defense appropriations bill. No one wants to appear to be putting the squeeze on the troops overseas. It also would be hard for lawmakers to vote against money for hurricane victims, or as much as $4 billion for emergency flu preparation, both of which are likely riders on the defense bill.
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