- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa urged Senate Democrats yesterday to vote for President Bush's proposal to allow oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge or lose the union's support in this election year.
"We cannot allow the tyranny of a few to stop us from having a comprehensive energy plan," Mr. Hoffa said at the Capitol. "We will remember in November."
An amendment to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is stalled in the Senate. It lacks the necessary votes, but supporters say the provision will be in a energy bill presented to Mr. Bush. The House approved the ANWR measure last summer.
The provision was supposed to come up for debate in the Senate this week. Now supporters say it might not come to the floor until after the Easter recess April 8.
"I think it has a chance but I don't think we're there now," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said in an interview with The Washington Times this week.
Democrats are threatening to filibuster the measure, meaning supporters would need 60 votes for passage.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said this week he is "not sure" when the drilling provision will come to the floor.
"Obviously, this has been around for a while, and I don't know that I want to make any final public pronouncements about its future until we get closer to the date. But stay tuned," Mr. Daschle said.
Supporters of ANWR drilling include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, while the opposition is being led by environmentalists pitting blue-collar workers against green groups, two core constituencies of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Hoffa and Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, stepped up the pressure yesterday and met with six targeted senators to lobby in favor of drilling, said a Republican aide.
Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, said the American public supports limited drilling in ANWR but "the problem is the politicians in America."
Mr. Hoffa said that the union will count a no-vote as a vote against organized labor in their yearly scorecard.
"We ask for a fair up-or-down vote," he said.
Mr. Lott said his goal is to include language either during the floor debate or afterwards when the whole energy bill is finalized in a conference committee.
"The main thing is to get something at the end," Mr. Lott said. "We have more than one option, but I'm not signaling what we are going to do."
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton lobbied for the measure on Capitol Hill Tuesday, and released a U.S. Geological Survey of oil potential in ANWR which is more than 10 billion barrels.
"ANWR is our largest potential source of oil in the United States," Mrs. Norton said. "It's important as we consider the energy security for this country, as we consider creation of jobs for economic stimulation, that we look to ANWR as one part of the energy legislation."
Despite radio and television ads supporting drilling in ANWR, Mr. Lott said he has "not seen much impact."
"An awful lot of senators have already committed themselves one way or the other, and I suspect that there is probably not more than 10 or 12 at play on both sides, so you're talking about a pretty narrow group who might be susceptible to being wooed or moved one way or the other," Mr. Lott said.
Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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