- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Senate Republicans' strategy of forcing a single vote on the president's energy plan and a ban on human cloning backfired last night as Republicans and Democrats alike voted against the proposal in droves.

Republican leaders had intended to force the issues onto the Senate's agenda against Democrats' wishes. But combining the two subjects into a single procedural vote annoyed many senators from both parties, and in the end the amendment failed 94-1. The lone vote in support was Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Republican conference, said the strategy was intended to pick up supporters of both the energy policy and the proposed six-month ban on human cloning. But he said the blended measure ended up driving away opponents of each issue, and those who felt each subject deserved its own debate.

"We ended up picking ourselves off," Mr. Santorum said.

The vote therefore was a lopsided rejection, though temporary, of President Bush's plan to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Mr. Bush wants to extend oil exploration there to lessen America's dependence on foreign oil.

The House in June approved an energy bill that permits drilling in a small portion of ANWR. But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who opposes drilling in ANWR, has put off debate on an energy plan until late January or early February.

Mr. Daschle said the two issues, energy and cloning, are too important to be dealt with as amendments to the bill at hand, a railroad-retirement measure.

"In all my years, I don't recall a more unusual marriage of issues involving public policy than this one," the South Dakota Democrat said.

Mr. Santorum said Mr. Daschle's strategy "worked in this case." He said Republicans would continue to raise the cloning and energy issues "but not together."

Several Democrats with strong support from the environmental lobby have vowed to filibuster the ANWR provision, and instead want to focus on "clean energy" and renewable fuels.

"It's not wise for the Senate to rush into a decision … that will do permanent damage to our environment," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.

The measure's prime sponsor, Republican Sen. Frank H. Murkowski of Alaska, scoffed at the notion that yesterday's vote was hasty or harmful. He said the issue has been before Congress for two decades, the subject of more than 50 bills and 60 hearings.

"This whole debate is a smoke screen … propagated by America's environmental community, who uses this as a tool for membership and dollars," Mr. Murkowski said.

The ANWR exploration has the support of several unions, including the Teamsters, which has lobbied strongly for the Senate to pass it.

"Exploring in the ANWR is clearly the right thing to do," said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. "It will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, while creating thousands of jobs for working families. A vote on the energy package must not be delayed any longer."

Senate Republican leaders acknowledged prior to the vote that they had little chance of winning because the procedural maneuver required a 60-vote majority. But Republicans had intended to get Democrats on the record as voting against the administration's energy plan, which the GOP has portrayed as a matter of national security and stimulating the economy.

"You're going to have to vote on what's right for America," said Mr. Murkowski, who ended up voting against the energy plan, too.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Republicans will continue to raise the issue.

"We need a national energy policy," Mr. Lott said. "Senator Daschle seems to be determined not to let it come up in such a way that would produce a result. These issues are not going to go away."

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