Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Many Simultaneous Gushers 

We refer, of course, to the ejaculations of joy in our oil-besotted White House as the drilling of ANWR moves closer to reality, thanks to a slippery maneuver by Senate GOP leaders: instead of introducing the measure on its own, they attached it to the budget bill -- which cannot, under procedural rules, be filibustered. An amendment that would have stripped out the ANWR provision, sponsored by Maria Cantwell and John Kerry, among others, was rejected earlier today on a surprisingly close 51-49 vote.

Hawaiian Senators Akaka and Inouye, along with Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, voted with the Republicans. Seven Republicans and Independent Jim Jeffords sided with the Democrats.
Environmental groups and their congressional allies vowed to continue to fight the measure in Congress and, if necessary, in the courts.

"This is still just the first step in a long budget process," said a spokesman for the Wilderness Society.

Robert Dewey, vice president of government relations for Defenders of Wildlife, said that his group would redouble its efforts to rally the public — and in turn put pressure on Congress — to kill the drilling measure.

"The American public overwhelmingly supports protecting the refuge," Dewey said, predicting that the Senate vote would be a "strong wake-up call" to the public about the risks to the refuge.

Opponents are hoping the drilling measure — which is attached to a budget bill that deals with other controversial spending and tax issues — will be turned back if House and Senate negotiators are unable to agree on the larger bill, as happened last year. The Senate also will need to vote on a final measure in the next few months, and environmentalists plan to step up their campaign — on Capitol Hill and in the states — to rally public opinion to kill the measure.
UPDATE (via our distinguished colleagues at Political Strategy): Daily Kos diarist Lorax lays out a number of fallback strategies available to environmentally-conscious voters. Foremost among them:
Focus on defeating the entire Senate budget. This is a distinct possibility, if we can cobble together a coalition of Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling opponents and enough fiscally conservative Republicans to oppose this bloated, deficit-expanding budget. It is very common for budgets to go unapproved. Dems can offer to support the budget if Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling is removed.
UPDATE II (via our esteemed colleague Erinberry at Jesus Was Not a Republican): Environmentalists may have a little help on that budget battle:
Five leaders of mainline Protestant churches will call on the U.S. Congress this afternoon to urge legislators to reject President Bush’s federal budget for 2006.

The leaders, who have scheduled a press conference for 3:30 at the National Press Club in Washington, say the president’s budget proposal is unjust because it fails to adequately care for America’s poor . . . .

The leaders will focus on Biblical concepts of economic justice, arguing that churches can help alleviate some problems relating to poverty, but “faith-based initiatives” alone are insufficient to stem a rising tide of poverty in the United States.

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