- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

Labor leaders called on Senate Democrats yesterday to enact President Bush's energy plan, saying it will provide jobs and enhance national security.
"Our economy is slowing, and American working families are hurting like they've never hurt before," said Jerry Hood, a top aide to Teamsters President James Hoffa. "Working families bear the brunt of inaction on the passage of a national comprehensive energy plan."
The Republican-led House worked closely with unions to approve the administration's energy plan two months ago, including a provision to allow oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. Thirty-six House Democrats sided with the unions to support the plan.
But Senate Democrats, mindful of environmentalists' objections to the plan, have been reluctant to schedule debate on the proposal.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Senate Republicans renewed pressure to vote on the plan, holding up action on a defense spending bill. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle now is offering to bring up the energy plan by the end of February, but some Republicans want to enact it before Congress adjourns next month.
"It is simply the will of the leadership of the U.S. Senate to produce it that is holding it up," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican. "Energy security is directly linked to national security."
Daschle spokeswoman Molly Rowley said the energy plan "deserves a more thorough debate" than it will get as an amendment to a defense spending bill.
"We agree that energy is an urgent concern," Ms. Rowley said. "It's unfortunate, though, that some people want to hold up a defense bill right now to force that debate. Most members recognize this is not a good time to force divisive issues."
Labor leaders said quick action on the plan is more imperative than ever, with the loss of more than 90,000 jobs in the airline industry in recent weeks.
"We're talking about a lot of long-term, good-paying union jobs," said Terry Turner, a Seafarers Union official. "The House has acted in a bipartisan way. We're calling on the Senate to do the same thing."
Mr. Hood said the Senate would approve the plan today if Democrats were allowed a vote on it.
"We have the votes in the United States Senate to pass a comprehensive energy bill that contains the ANWR component," Mr. Hood said.
He said the Senate should follow the example of union workers who aided the World Trade Center collapse rescue effort.
"I call on the United States Senate to do the same get in there, get dirty, roll up your sleeves, get some political will and get the job done," Mr. Hood said. "Pass an energy bill that will put Americans to work."
Ms. Rowley said that Mr. Daschle believes the Senate's priorities are approving a budget and "ensuring a national defense."
Mr. Craig and Mr. Hood said a national energy policy is critical to national security.
"We believe it is an integral part of national security for this country to be more reliant on itself and less reliant upon foreign energy supplies," Mr. Craig said.
Said Mr. Hood, "If it [ANWR] were on line today, it would fuel the military effort that we experienced in Desert Storm for over two decades. We don't know what kind of a war we're going to be involved in."

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