On December 15, 2005 Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, attached an Arctic Refuge drilling amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill. A group of Democratic Senators led a successful filibuster of the bill on December 21, and the language was subsequently removed.
If the bill was so important, why was it attached to the Defense Appropriations bill at the last minute, without discussion or even committee consideration?
After reading the article, we have to look again at the influencing charges against Sen Stevens as they seem to dovetail nicely with this effort.
Senate blocks oil drilling push for Arctic refuge
GOP leaders hoping to override filibuster on defense spending bill fall 4 votes short
Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Thursday, December 22, 2005
(12-22) 04:00 PDT Washington -- The Senate rejected an effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling Wednesday after lawmakers balked at a controversial move to pass drilling as part of a popular defense spending bill that pays for the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina relief.
Republican leaders failed to rally the 60 votes needed to override a filibuster, falling four votes short. The vote was a defeat for the White House and GOP leaders, who have failed for a fifth consecutive year to boost domestic energy supplies by opening the refuge on Alaska's north coast.
"It was wrong at the eleventh hour to try to attach this energy and environment measure to a bill whose sole purpose is to provide funding for the American military at a time of war," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who helped lead the filibuster.
The fierce fight over drilling capped a day of drama in the Senate -- starting with Vice President Dick Cheney's vote to break a 50-50 tie on a budget bill that cuts $40 billion in federal spending, and ending with an agreement to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act for six months.
The vote on the Arctic refuge was also a personal defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who has been crusading for the last 25 years to open the refuge to oil development. Stevens pushed the strategy of tying drilling to the defense spending bill, hoping to put lawmakers who oppose drilling in the tough position of casting a vote against funding for U.S. troops in combat.
But many senators, including some Republicans, chafed at the tactic. Democrats accused Stevens of holding the $453 billion defense appropriations bill hostage to the drilling plan.
"He thought he could force people to vote for it -- and it didn't work," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said after the vote. "It really offended people that he would attach this to the defense appropriations bill. It wasn't the right thing to do, and it really struck a chord with people."
Stevens' effort ultimately failed on a 56-to-44 vote. Three Democrats -- Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii -- joined Republicans in trying defeat to the filibuster. But two Republicans -- Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio -- sided with Democrats in upholding the filibuster.
Senate leaders agreed late Wednesday night to pass the defense spending bill without opening the refuge. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., told reporters that drilling had to be stripped in order to save a bill that also provides $29 billion in hurricane relief.
"We have to go on," Lott said.
The vote Wednesday afternoon followed a raucous debate over America's energy future and over the sanctity of the Senate's long-standing rules.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said drilling in the refuge could ease America's dependence on foreign oil by tapping what U.S. geologists believe to be America's largest untapped onshore oil field.
"What ANWR represents to this country is energy security and national security," Murkowski said.
But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who made opposition to drilling a centerpiece of his presidential campaign last year, said the United States has just 3 percent of the world's oil reserves but consumes roughly one-quarter of the world's oil supply.
"On its face, drilling in the Alaska wildlife refuge doesn't help solve America's drilling problem. We are overly dependent," Kerry said.
Democrats accused Stevens of violating Rule 28, which bars lawmakers from adding items to a bill during conference committee that have not been passed in either the House or Senate. The drilling provision had not been included in either the House or Senate defense spending bill.
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the Senate's oldest member at age 88 and a stickler for the rules, took issue with the efforts of his friend Stevens, who at age 82 is the second-oldest member of the Senate and the president pro tempore.
"I abhor this idea. Shame!" Byrd told Stevens. "I love him, I love my friend from Alaska, but I cannot go down that road. ... If permitted today, the process could be utilized again and again and again with terrible consequences for the Senate rules."
Stevens denied violating the Senate rules and accused his critics of attacking him personally for trying to pass a measure that would benefit his home state.
"We know this Arctic," he told his opponents in a sharply worded speech. "You don't know the Arctic at all."
Republican leaders had predicted this year would offer them the best chance in decades to pass drilling in the refuge. After last year's election, the Senate added four new pro-drilling Republicans who were expected to tip the balance.
But the effort faced tougher-than-expected opposition in the House, where about two dozen moderate Republicans succeeded last month in stripping drilling from a budget bill. The drilling provision ultimately passed the House as part of the defense spending bill in a pre-dawn vote Monday.
Senate Republicans expressed frustration after Wednesday's vote that the party has been unable to overcome the Democrats' ability to filibuster.
"I'm very disappointed that the will of the majority of the Senate has been thwarted again," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Democrats say they expect to see the issue of drilling in the refuge back again next year.
"There is strong resistance to ANWR year after year," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate's No. 2 ranking Democrat. "I don't think Sen. Stevens will ever stop working on it, but we made clear that they will have to pass it in regular order."
Senate blocks oil drilling push for Arctic refuge / GOP leaders hoping to override filibuster on defense spending bill fall 4 votes short