- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Senate Republicans said yesterday they have enough votes to approve a national energy policy that would allow oil drilling on federal land in Alaska, but Democratic leaders are blocking the measure on purely partisan grounds.
"The administration tried to work in a bipartisan manner but this is one very blatant case where bipartisanship broke down," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican. "To ignore an energy policy for partisan political reasons is unconscionable during this time."
Republicans say Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, secretly pulled the bill from consideration last week because he knew the votes were there to pass it.
"The holdup is one person Tom Daschle," Mr. Santorum said.
Environmentalists oppose oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), but it is supported by organized labor, which has split Democrat support and gives Republicans the votes they need to pass the Senate.
Some Republicans privately said the move was early presidential politics by Mr. Daschle, who is contemplating a run for the Democratic nomination.
The Democrat vote was split for former Vice President Al Gore, with many environmentalists voting instead for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Mr. Daschle is carefully guarding his green base, Republicans said. However, the gamble could backfire if turmoil in the Middle East forces gas prices to rise from its current $22 a barrel to $100 a barrel.
Interior Secretary Gail A. Norton joined the Senators during a Capitol Hill press conference to urge the Democratic leadership to act on President Bush's energy plan before the congressional session ends.
"In the aftermath of last month's terrorist attacks, Americans charged our government to strengthen national security," Mrs. Norton said. "The U.S. Senate should immediately allow a fair vote on bipartisan legislation to help families and to reduce our reliance on foreign oil."
Sen. Frank Murkowski, Alaska Republican, said the lack of a comprehensive energy bill is the "Achilles heel" in the war against terrorism.
"Our energy solution must begin and end at home," said Mr. Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The Energy bill passed the House in August with 32 Democrats voting in support, but is stalled in the Senate.
Republicans want to move the package as a whole, but Senate aides say they may attach the measure as an amendment to President Bush's economic stimulus package.
"We will look for other vehicles to attach it to if we can't have a debate," Mr. Santorum acknowledged.
The 2,000 drilling area could yield 10.4 billion barrels of oil, an amount equal to almost 50 years of imports from Iraq, Mrs. Norton said. The U.S. imports 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Iraq at a cost of $12 million, or $4.4 billion a year.
"That is one damn poor investment and we must now allow our country to make it," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.
Mr. Craig criticized Mr. Daschle for trying to quietly kill the bill before it reaches the floor for a vote.
"Be public about your position and if you are truly being bipartisan, allow us a vote on the floor," Mr. Craig said.
Alaskan Indians support drilling because it is a needed boost to their economy and can be conducted without harming the environment, said Richard Glenn, a vice president of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
"There is no other economy for us, and we know the environment can be protected and our values protected and we can have a better quality of life," Mr. Glenn said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide