Senate Backs Arctic Drilling Filibuster, 56-44

Opponents of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge scored a dramatic victory today when the Senate upheld a filibuster of a defense spending measure that authorized refuge leasing. With 60 votes needed to override the filibuster, drilling proponents fell just short, 56-44.

Including ANWR in the $453 billion defense spending bill was a bold gamble by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who has for decades been pressing for opening the refuge to oil and gas exploration. The rejection of the defense bill sends the measure back to conference, where conferees will likely have to strip drilling provisions in order to see the military spending bill pass.

"This was a victory for the Senate and for an orderly process," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said after the vote.

If Stevens agrees to relent on keeping ANWR in the defense bill, the House will have to return to pass a revised defense spending bill minus the language. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes Stevens will accept today's cloture vote as a sign that ANWR does not belong in the military bill.

"Republican devotion to special interests and their unwillingness to accept the fact that we will not permit them to advance these interests at the expense of our troops," he said following the vote.

On the other side of the aisle, key senators said the failure was in not moving it through the budget reconciliation process, where ANWR would have been immune from a filibuster. "We have got to get it on a reconciliation bill with nothing else on it," said Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

Vote count

Democrats who voted for cloture were Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Republicans who voted against were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Frist, who had initially voted for clouture, changed his vote for procedural reasons. It allows him to bring the drilling issue up for consideration later.

Reprinted from E&E Daily with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. . 202/628-6500.