Senate Dems to fight ‘heartless’ Alaska refuge drilling proposal

Senate Dems to fight ‘heartless’ Alaska refuge drilling proposal
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Senate Democrats are planning an amendment to stop the GOP from using the budget process to more easily allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns MORE (D-Mass.) and a handful of others told reporters Tuesday that they’re working on how exactly to fight the ANWR provision in the budget, and they plan to have Republicans oppose it as well.

“We’re going to work together with our colleagues to determine just the right moment in this budgetary process to make this amendment,” Markey said outside the Capitol. “But we are going to do so, and we are reaching out to Republicans to try to make this as bipartisan as we can. It should be a bipartisan issue.”

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Markey called the ANWR provision “heartless,” “a budgetary scam” and “nothing more than a Big Oil polar payout.”

“This is exactly the kind of polarizing politics we need to get away from — giveaways to big oil and billionaires at the expense of the American people and our planet,” he said.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Poll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticized the GOP for using the opaque budget process to push ANWR drilling.

“It tells you something that this idea does not stand on its own. It tells you that every time it has to be paired with something else as almost a sneak attack, you have to vote for this because of these other issues,” she said.

“When are they going to stop holding us all hostage to vote for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge being opened, when in reality, oil companies today aren’t even interested in drilling there at this price?”

The Senate is voting on its budget this week, which is meant to set high-level funding limits for the government, though it does not actually set the funding amounts.

The legislation, as proposed by the GOP, would ask the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to pass legislation to raise $1 billion over the next 10 years.

Although it does not mention the federally owned wildlife refuge specifically, government revenue from ANWR drilling is by far the most likely way to get to the $1 billion total.

And since it would be in the budget, a drilling bill would only require a 51-vote majority, an easier climb for the GOP than the 60 votes needed for most legislation.

“What’s happening here is an effort that they know will not withstand the light of day,” said Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Colo.). “That’s why they put it on this budget bill, that’s why they’re trying to do it in middle of the night.”

Drilling supporters have not conceded that the $1 billion ask in the budget is meant for the ANWR.

“I don’t think it’s an ANWR provision. It’s just producing more energy for America. I would find that remarkable that anyone would not want to produce more energy for America,” said Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanDems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act GOP senator: NATO summit 'turned out well' Sunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin MORE (R-Alaska).

“Who would be against energy for America? That could be for renewables. Is Franken, Markey against renewables? You guys should ask them that question,” he said, referring to Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (D-Minn.). The Energy Committee would be able to reach the $1 billion through any legislation within its purview, not just opening the ANWR to drilling.

Nonetheless, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy Committee and a longtime supporter of ANWR drilling, supports the budget as proposed.

“My goal is to make sure that those instructions get through the process,” she said of the provision.

Congress created the refuge in 1977. It left the possibility open for drilling in a small area on the coast, though lawmakers reserved the right to make a decision on drilling there to themselves and it has often cropped up as a political controversy since then.