cross-posted from Dembloggers and A Faerie’s Farthing

There is a special place in hell for Senator Ted Stevens.  Preferably involving being stuck on an ice flow with starving polar bears or maybe waking every day knowing a giant elk is going to gore him.  Maybe penguins could nip him in the ass incessantly and poke him a lot.  He deserves it all.

The man is almost as shameless and narcissistic as shrubya, plays politics every bit as dirty as DeLay and he’s just as much of a bully as either of them.  After insisting on his precious bridges to nowhere while areas of Louisiana and Mississippi suffer with Katrina-ravaged highways, he now has the audacity to attach a bill for drilling in the Arctic Refuge on to the must-pass defense spending bill.

The wily and cantankerous Alaska Republican is trying to secure the mother of all pet projects for his state: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stevens has attached the provision to a popular defense spending bill and has put holiday plans of his Senate colleagues on hold as he dares Democratic and moderate Republican opponents to vote against it.

The former Appropriations Committee chairman is a master of legislative larding, but this latest gambit may be riskier than usual.

…Alaska drilling is the most controversial environmental issue before Congress, a far cry from the usual Native Alaskan and salmon subsidies. And Stevens has tucked it into a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stevens once described himself as a “mean, miserable SOB;” if his recent petulant outbursts are any indication, he prides himself on the fact:
He has basically threatened to hold the Senate hostage, saying “I could go all month; I’ve been with it for 25 years.”  When your first line of defense is “I’ve done nothing illegal,” you might want to consider holding yourself to a higher standard.  If your second line of defense – “I’ve done nothing immoral” – meets with criticism from your own party, you should really be having second thoughts.

An aide to Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), who has consistently opposed drilling in the Arctic, said her boss was also outraged at Stevens’s move. “Senator Snowe believes that inserting ANWR into the defense appropriations bill discredits the integrity of the process,” spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said. “The American people will see this for what it is, a cynical approach to legislating that will further erode public confidence in the federal government.”

…”It doesn’t belong on a defense bill,” Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) said of the drilling provision. The moderate Republican said Stevens is misusing his authority as the sponsor of the defense spending bill, granting drilling “a significance that is out of proportion. It’s just not fair.”

“I support what he’s doing, but if you’re too cute in maneuvers, they can backfire on you,” warned Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). “That’s a big package there, and we are up against Christmas. I sure hope someone has counted the votes.”

As much as I love subtle digs on Frist, all the GOP infighting in the world can’t make up for the appalling hubris of what Stevens’ most recent depravity.  It can really only be described as “bullying.”  He is wantonly abusing Senate procedure to force passage of a wildly unpopular bill.

Earlier this year, Stevens and his longtime friend and drilling ally Pete V. Domenici hatched a plan to insert the Arctic provision in a major deficit reduction bill. Because the budget-cutting measure enjoyed special protection from parliamentary hurdles in the Senate, Stevens and Domenici thought it would be the perfect vehicle for passing the drilling plan. But that tactic had to be scuttled in the House because of strong objections from Republican moderates.  At the urging of House GOP leaders, Stevens decided to try his luck on the defense bill.

…Democrats are considering their parliamentary options for a showdown expected tomorrow in the Senate. A memo circulating among Democratic senators and their staffs pointed out that the new language authorizes drilling in a larger area than would have been allowed in the budget bill. They also noted that President Bush would have broad discretion over how royalties are spent.

“Despicable” doesn’t even begin to adequately describe this travesty.  But wait; it gets even more atrocious.  His pet excuse – to reduce our dependency on foreign oil – has already been shot down by <s>his own sponsors</s&gt Big Oil itself, when American Petroleum Institute’s president conceded that “ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic energy needs.”  And our troops’ salaries and equipment aren’t the only things being held hostage.

It remains unclear whether Stevens — who has said hurricane-stricken Louisiana’s “levees will be paid for when we drill in ANWR” — will succeed in his latest gambit.

…But Stevens said that if the drilling provision falls, other non-defense programs in the bill would suffer, because royalty revenues from oil would fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. “The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of those people are not going to receive the assistance they should have,” Stevens said.

Stevens has been rated the No. 1 pork purveyor for six years in a row by Citizens Against Government Waste.  I hope he chokes on all of it.  It is simply beyond the pale for the nation’s pork leader to hold a national treasure hostage against emergency relief funds; revenue from any Arctic drilling won’t even be realized for several years, but the GOP sees nothing wrong with pitting people in immediate need against a pristine wilderness area.  But they’re serious.  Katrina relief funding is directly tied to Arctic drilling, i.e. their relief package is structured around bidding revenue on drilling projects.

Meanwhile, the $29 billion hurricane assistance bill, which passed at 4 a.m. New Orleans time by 308-106, would, among other things, give Louisiana $2 billion as its share of bidding revenue and $4 billion over 30 years as the state’s share of drilling royalty revenue — all associated with the proposed exploration of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

…Critics said the proposal, which also provides a financing source for heating and air-conditioning assistance for low-income households and for homeland security, was an attempt to buy support for the controversial drilling provisions long opposed by environmentalists.

Yes; communities ravaged by hurricane Katrina will have to wait 10 years for some of the emergency funds to come through, but we’ve got plenty of room in the budget for tax cuts that only help the rich.

Flake, 42, of Arizona, belongs to the 100-member Republican Study Committee. Its members backed a tax-cut package totaling almost $90 billion, and most want even more than the $50 billion in spending reductions that the House has approved in the past month. Castle, 66, of Delaware, belongs to the 40-member Tuesday Group, most of whom seek to limit spending reductions in anti- poverty programs and are wary of tax cuts that would increase the federal deficit.

…The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think-tank that has been critical of Bush’s economic agenda, released a study this month that found that households with more than $100,000 in income would reap three-quarters of the benefits from the $90 billion tax-cut package. The center estimated that the top one percent of U.S. wage earners received about 43 percent of the benefits from Bush’s $1.35 billion tax cut enacted in 2001.

…Flake says his group will push next year for further cuts to benefits programs, including a reduction in the costs of the Medicare prescription drug program, and cuts — perhaps about 5 percent — in non-defense domestic programs. He backs drilling in the Alaska reserve and plans to push for a ban on inserting lawmakers’ pet projects into legislation, known in congressional parlance as earmarks.

Houston, we have a problem.

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