See Senate blocks Alaska refuge drilling, A.P. story at the Seattle P.I.. Snippets:

The vote was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who for years has waged an intense fight to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He had thought this time he would finally get his wish. […]

During the vote, a grim-faced Stevens, 82, who had fought to open the refuge to drilling since 1980 and is the most senior Republican in the Senate, sat midway back in the chamber, watching his colleagues. When it became apparent that he had lost, he briefly talked with Frist, presumably over what move should be taken next. He briefly shook his head, a signal of his disappointment.

[WARNING] Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was among those who for procedural reasons cast a “no” vote, so that he could bring the drilling issue up for another vote. …

It’s the big showdown in the U.S. Senate today with filibuster and the nuke option in the works. Senate proceedings are live on C-Span2.

UPDATE, 9:40am PT: Cloture failed; ANWR drilling apparently has failed? (Curiously, Frist voted no, as did two other GOP senators. Four Dems — Landrieau, Akaka, Inoye, and Nelson — voted yes.) UPDATE, 7:45am PT: The motion to debate cloture has passed, and cloture is being debated. VP Cheney cast the deciding vote on the cloture debate motion and, reports Raw Story, on the cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and student loans.

Update [2005-12-21 13:6:19 by susanhu]: Maria Cantwell will be interviewed on C-Span2 shortly.

Ted “Crank” Stevens is forever “the senator who stole Christmas” for stalling passage of the defense appropriations bill in his conniving moves to tack ANWR drilling (and a “sweetheart deal” for oil companies), along with Katrina funds, to the defense bill. (Last weekend, Stevens engineered the House move to force anti-ANWR Reps., pressured to pass the defense bill, to vote for drilling.)

Military leaders, Gen’l Zinni among them, warn that “any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling … will jeopardize Congress’ ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need …”

An infantile despot paralyzes the Senate and defense bill to rake in pork for Alaska. (See “Hurricane aid bill snagged by filibuster in divided Senate” from NOLA’s Times Picayune.) Says the Sierra Club‘s Carl Pope for Common Dreams:

“… Stevens berated his fellow Senators and threatened to resign if money was taken from his ‘bridges to nowhere’ to help rebuild Gulf Coast infrastructure. He is now manipulating the same hurricane-ravaged region to pass his pet project of Arctic drilling.

GOP Threatens Nuclear Option: Sen. Maria Cantwell threatens a filibuster, and the GOP is plotting a nuke option. A a DKos diarist says, “You thought the Nuclear Option was about judicial nominations [something to think about after] the New Year? Wrong! The Republicans are setting things up to give it a go today. …”.

Others are irate.

John Kerry accused Stevens of putting big oil ahead of the welfare of U.S. troops and orchestrating the most egregious flouting of Senate rules he had seen …

[John McCain] attacked his colleagues for the “obscene and disgusting” list of porkbarrelling … with most of his venom directed at Stevens and the Alaska spending …

Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said Stevens is breaking Senate rules “big time.”

The numbers are against us. Can we SEE that we have to buck up in 2006 and 2008, put aside differences, and vote for Democrats? Yesterday, quite unbelievably, some on a Democracy for America list stubbornly refused to sign a petition supporting Cantwell/ANWR because she voted for war authorization. What in the hell kind of twisted thinking is that?

[Ornstein] said it is against the rules to add something to a bill that had never been considered by either chamber the first time it was debated and said there is a ban on adding legislation to a spending bill.

“Money and substance are supposed to be kept separate, …”

But even if Democrats win a ruling… a majority of the 100 members must agree with the ruling in a vote to have the measure stripped.

The Hill reports that “Senate Republicans prepared a targeted version of the so-called ‘nuclear option‘ [Monday] …” Here’s where Dick Cheney’s hurried return to D.C. comes to play. Dick is the tie-breaker:

The tactic promises to make the consensus-based Senate temporarily resemble the majority-dominated House.

The ANWR provision leaves the measure open to a point of order because it runs afoul of Senate Rule 28, which requires that conference reports contain only provisions that were included in either the House- or Senate-passed versions of the bill. (More below.)

Cartoon: By David Horsey, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Seattle P.I. (And my daughter played basketball with his daughter!) JPol sent me this ‘toon.

ALSO BELOW: The Alaskans’ bait-and-switch trickery that will deny the touted hanky-danglers that Sen. Stevens, in his most sincere, flirtatious manner, touted today are in the ANWR drilling provision, “royalties to pay for Katrina relief and for LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Emergency Assistance Program)”

The Hill also reports:

The president of the Senate, who rules on parliamentary questions, would be expected to uphold the point of order. But Republican leaders plan to appeal … allowing 51 senators — rather than the 60-vote majority typically needed to waive points of order — to allow the ANWR provision to stand. […]

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the chief proponent of ANWR drilling, included a provision to ensure that the precedent set by the move would not become permanent. Under that language, the Senate would revert the precedent that existed at the start of the 109th Congress.

It is possible that Stevens, who is president pro tempore of the Senate, could preside over the proceedings on a point of order, according to Amy Call, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Though it would be short-lived, the parliamentary maneuver is similar to the “nuclear option” Frist has threatened to employ to circumvent Rule 22, which requires a supermajority for cloture, to win confirmation for judicial nominees.

It was unclear whether Democrats would filibuster to block consideration of the conference report before a point of order is raised.

The full story at The Hill.


A diarist at Daily Kos (Land of Enchantment) further points out in “Countdown to Senate ‘Nuclear Option’ — Today!”:

Their story is that ANWR drilling will produce royalties to pay for Katrina relief and for LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Emergency Assistance Program). But it’s a bait-and-switch deal. They’ve got their fingers crossed behind their backs. They don’t really mean it.

Here’s the real story: When Alaska became a state, part of the deal was that the state gets to keep 90% of royalties collected from oil extraction. (In the other 49 states, the split is 50-50 between states and the federal government.) This bill makes an exception to that: ANWR royalties are to be split 50-50, with proceeds to go to Katrina relief and to LIHEAP. Yeah right, and Stevens is gonna give up the “Bridge to Nowhere” funding to help Katrina victims, too. Dream on!

Buried in the bill is a little-noticed passage which undermines the premise of this funding. The state of Alaska can “object” to this deal, and simply through that means, kill the 50-50 deal. And the state’s already indicated it will do exactly so. So most of the talk about monies for Katrina relief and for LIHEAP are nothing more than a fairy tale.

I get why the Stevens, the Alaska folks, and anyone who’s eager for drilling would go for this window-dressing sham. But what’s the story with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)? Has her staff not read the fine print? Shouldn’t she insist on unconditional funding for relief? Even if she does generally fall in line with the oil industry, how can she ignore her state’s extraordinary and crucial needs?

I’ve taken this from a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon by Dick Durbin (D-IL), about which nothing has (yet) appeared on his official website. Most of the press has given this “elephant in the living room” little attention. But consider this from yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News: …

Read all.

Call your senators. Find talking points on ANWR in yesterday’s story.

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