- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The House last night gave the green light to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the centerpiece of President Bush's energy plan.
A last-minute amendment to stop drilling in the Alaska wilderness area was defeated by a 223-206 vote, with a nearly equal number of Democrats and Republicans breaking ranks with their party leaderships. Voting for the anti-drilling amendment were 171 Democrats, 34 Republicans and one independent; voting against were 186 Republicans, 36 Democrats and one independent.
The large number of crossover votes came as labor union leaders lined up with Republicans and endorsed a plan they say will create 700,000 jobs nationwide. Environmentalists, who strongly oppose drilling, were able to pull liberal Republicans into their camp.
Both sides described the vote as the most important to be cast in this session of Congress: Democrats fighting for the environment, Republicans fighting for freedom from dependence on foreign oil.
"We need to take control of our own destiny and this bill gives the American people much more control over their energy security. Members from both parties should support this bill," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
After midnight, the House passed the entire bill, which implements most of the package Mr. Bush submitted June 28, on a vote of 240-189, with 36 Democrats joining 203 Republicans and one independent in support. Voting against the bill were 172 Democrats, 16 Republicans and one independent.
"Working with the president, Congress has crafted a comprehensive energy plan that looks to the future," House Majority Leader Dick Armey said earlier yesterday. "This legislation provides balanced, cost-effective solutions that focus on conservation and common sense policies."
Passage of the embattled ANWR policy gives Republicans a legislative victory to take home for the August recess.
"We find ourselves facing energy challenges that we simply cannot ignore any longer," said Mr. DeLay.
The comprehensive energy policy is the cumulative work of eight separate House committees, and requires an inventory of energy production potential in all federal public lands except wilderness areas and national parks, for wind, solar, coal and geothermal power production.
The 500-page bill also includes incentives for new exploration for oil and gas, and for development of nuclear and renewable resources to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The House also voted to limit exploration in ANWR to 2,000 acres. They also voted to use half the federal oil royalties raised from drilling to pay for research on renewable energy sources and to finish the backlog of improvement projects in national parks.
Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican, said the eight committees "juggled jurisdictions to create a product long overdue. The key was to make sure it's a balanced approach," Mr. Thomas said.
Fellow California Republican Rep. David Dreier said it has been 20 years since Congress passed an energy policy.
"I want to make sure my lights stay on through the summer," said Mr. Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee.
The Rules Committee sifted through 140 proposed amendments Tuesday and allowed 15 amendments a full floor vote.
An amendment setting stricter fuel economy standards for cars and trucks was defeated by a 269-160 vote. House Democrats criticized the whole bill as an entitlement for the energy industry and bad news for the environment.
"The president and House Republican leaders are promoting a program that gives the most help to the special interests," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat. "This program moves America backwards. It provides little short-term relief for consumers hit by high prices, and it fails to map a balanced energy strategy for a new century."
Rep. Charles B. Rangel said he opposed the energy bill, saying it will be funded by Medicare or Social Security surpluses.
"It's like the Republicans are writing checks on a bank account that's already overdrawn," the New York Democrat said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer praised the House action yesterday, saying it would increase conservation, promote technology, increase energy exploration and promote a clean environment.
"The president is very pleased that the House is taking up one of his major priorities, and certainly a priority for the American people so they can be less dependent on foreign supplies of oil and have more stable and steady supplies of oil, gasoline, and increased conservation measures at home," Mr. Fleischer said.
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham discussed strategies with House Republicans early yesterday.
In separate news conferences, both Cabinet members said that the focus should not be solely on ANWR and that Mr. Bush's plan includes 105 recommendations that focus on improving energy efficiency and conservation.
"We're delighted by the progress that's been made," Mr. Abraham said.

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