Thursday, November 10, 2005

ANWR Update - House Strikes ANWR Provision


House Republicans decided late yesterday to drop the provision that would open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for drilling from the budget bill. According to the Anchroage Daily News, fears that they would be unable to pass the crucial budget bill prompted House Republicans to remove the provision from the bill as it was being marked up by the House Rules Committee in preperation for a vote on the House floor today.

"There will be no drilling in ANWR," said New Hampshire Rep. Charles Bass, one of the Republican moderates who led the effort to strip ANWR from the bill. More than 20 House Republicans had told the Republican leadership that they would oppose the budget bill if it contained the ANWR provision. These moderate Republicans also sought assurances that the ANWR provision would not be readded to the bill during the final Senate-House compromise process. According to the Anchorage Daily News, it would take 14 of them voting no to kill the bill, assuming the Democrats are united in rejecting it. So far the Democrats have remained opposed.

This is not the end of the line, however and ANWR is still not safe. Because ANWR development was in the budget bill the Senate passed last week, it's still possible for it to become law. If the House passes its version of the budget package today, members of the House and Senate would then be appointed to hash out the differences between the two bills. The final version would have to go before the House and Senate for a vote. There is therefore still a long process ahead during which the ANWR provision could be readded at any point.

The House also dropped the provision that would open previously closed offshore areas for drilling, another victory of environmentalists who have opposed this measure along with the ANWR provision.

Well, I wasn't expecting this bit of good news today. I assumed that if the provision passed the generally more moderate Senate, it would easily get through the House. It seems I was wrong.

Considering this additional loss of support for the provision, as well as the narrow margin it passed in the Senate (only two votes going the other way would have struck the ANWR provision from the Senate bill, see my previous post), it seems like there is still a good chance that the provision won't make it into the final budget bill. I think the Republican leadership is beginning to recognize that this issue could cripple their chances to pass the budget bill at all. Their confidence was also likely weakend by the significant election losses they suffered in various elections held across the country this Tuesday. With plenty of attention being paid to the upcoming and sure to be hotly contested 2006 mid-term elections, I imagine Republicans, moderates in particular, are a bit worried about the promised retaliation from environmental groups if they don't oppose drilling in ANWR.


Resources:

  • The New York Times: House Shelves Alaska Drilling in Budget Fight

  • Anchorage Daily News: House drops ANWR from budget

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