- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

House Republicans yesterday teamed up with union leaders in an unusual alliance to attempt to enact President Bush's energy bill and open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling.
Republican House Whip Tom DeLay said he is "working hard to grow the vote," and with pressure from labor groups on reluctant Democrats, he and labor leaders say the measure should pass by a comfortable margin today.
"We feel confident we will be able to crack the backs of radical environmentalists that won't allow us to produce the energy this country needs," said Mr. DeLay, of Texas.
"The Teamsters and other unions understand that energy security is vitally important to this country and they have stepped forward very courageously and joined forces with us," Mr. DeLay said.
Unions support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because it would create more than 700,000 jobs nationwide, said Jerry Hood, special assistant on energy to James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
"We support it because it puts our members to work," Mr. Hood said during a Capitol Hill press conference with Republican leaders and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
Drilling in the wildlife refuge has caused a rift between two key Democratic constituencies — organized labor and environmentalists who strongly oppose drilling.
Unions pressured Democratic leaders to allow them to address the entire caucus last week. Democrats agreed to let the Teamsters and International Union of Operating Engineers debate two environmental groups — the Sierra Club and Alaska Wilderness League — before a caucus audience.
"Look, these are two major wings of the Democratic Party, so it was a good idea to bring these guys in," Rep. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and caucus vice chairman, told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.
"We have two sets of friends in this debate," Mr. Menendez said.
The House Rules Committee spent yesterday sorting through 140 amendments to the bill, including one Democratic measure to strip ANWR drilling from the energy package. The committee was expected to announce late last night what amendments will be allowed.
"The president's plan provides immediate relief where possible, but more importantly, it offers long-term solutions to a long-term concern," Mrs. Chao said at the press conference.
"We ask members of the House and Senate to act upon the president's energy plan. It's time for America to have what it has lacked for too long: a responsible, realistic energy plan that meets our needs and protects our future," Mrs. Chao said.
Mr. Bush's plan would also end "wild roller-coaster energy prices," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican and House Republican Conference chairman.
Republican leaders may gain some Democratic votes, but some members of their own caucus plan to vote against oil exploration.
Republican opponents say drilling in the proposed 2,000-square-mile area would destroy the environment and caribou herd.
"Protecting ANWR should be a priority of Congress because it is a priority of the American people," said Rep. Jim Ramstad, Minnesota Republican.
But Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican, and chairman of the House subcommittee on the Middle East, said reliance on foreign oil is a national security issue, "but we cannot drill our way to energy security."
"For every 10 barrels that we pump, OPEC will cut its production by the same number in order to maintain its desired price per barrel of oil," Mr. Gilman said. "We cannot beat OPEC by just pumping oil, nor can we fix our energy crisis by just pumping."
The United States imports an average of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day from Iraq, and 245,000 barrels a day from Kuwait, according to the Department of Energy. One estimate of the amount of recoverable oil in ANWR reaches as high as 16 billion barrels.
Mr. Hood dismissed polls by environmental groups that say Americans oppose drilling in ANWR, and said other polls show more than 50 percent of respondents don't know what ANWR is. "Our battle is not with the American people, but with the United States Congress," he said.
Despite the expected victory in the House, drilling for oil in ANWR faces a tougher battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate, a fact reiterated yesterday by the Senate's top Democrat.
"I can't imagine that at the end of the day, that the votes are there," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
However, Mr. DeLay says Senate apathy will not prevent the House from moving forward with a vote and pressuring the Senate to follow suit.
"For six years the House has driven issues the Senate didn't want, and this is one of them," Mr. DeLay said.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott is urging Democratic leaders to address energy issues after the August recess period. "We're going to have to address this issue; it is affecting our economy," he said.

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