Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line

Week ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line
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Congress is expected to vote in the coming week on final passage of Republicans' tax-reform bill, which would also open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling.

The conference committee responsible for reconciling the House and Senate tax bills — which includes top ANWR drilling proponents Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Overnight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial The 7 GOP senators who voted to block all or part of Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungEx-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Congress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Bipartisan group introduces legislation to protect federal workers' health benefits during shutdowns MORE (R-Alaska) — is due to unveil their final bill late Friday, setting up potential votes for next week.

Murkowski and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-Ky.) have said ANWR drilling would be in the legislation.

Since the bill is being considered under budget reconciliation rules, it only needs 51 votes to pass.

Some House Republicans expressed concern about opening up ANWR, but in recent days have said its inclusion in the tax bill would not be a deal breaker.

The GOP is eager to pass the tax bill before Christmas to secure a major legislative victory for the year.

Under the initial proposal that passed the Senate, the Interior Department would be required to hold at least two auctions for drilling rights leases in ANWR's Coastal Plain area in the next 10 years.

The vote would cap off decades of advocacy by most Alaska leaders, some Alaska Native groups, the oil industry, Republicans and others to open up ANWR for drilling.

Environmentalists have been furiously fighting the proposal at every step, arguing that drilling would be devastating for AWNR's ecology, its imperiled fauna and the climate.

But greens and Democrats have recognized that their time and options for stopping drilling are running out, particularly since the drilling provision is in a budget bill. 

The Senate also could act on Trump administration nominees who are pending before the year ends.

The nominees still in the Senate's hopper include Andrew Wheeler to be the Environmental Protection Agency's deputy administrator, Kathleen Hartnett White to be chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Barry Myers to be the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) administrator and Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineIndia is making a play to become a major space power NASA plans to open the International Space Station for business NASA renames street in front of headquarters after 'Hidden Figures' MORE to be NASA's administrator.

A Senate panel cleared Myers on Wednesday. Myers was, until recently, the CEO of AccuWeather, Inc., which he co-founded. The company provides weather forecasting information similar to the National Weather Service, which NOAA oversees. Democrats had raised concerns that Myers would be conflicted.

 

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