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 urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Ocasio-Cortez taps supporters for donations as former primary opponent pitches for Kennedy Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid 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 CantwellDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Hillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure On The Money: Trump to meet China's vice premier during trade talks | Appeals court says Deutsche Bank doesn't have Trump's tax returns | House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey to retire 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 BennetThe Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight to take center stage at Dem debate 2020 Presidential Candidates Bennet releases housing affordability plan 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 SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall 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 FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show 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 MurkowskiMurkowski warns against rushing to conclusions on Trump impeachment GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   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.