Democrats could push for Arctic wildlife refuge drilling reversal in reconciliation

Democrats could push for Arctic wildlife refuge drilling reversal in reconciliation
© Bonnie Cash

Democrats may try to use their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill push for a reversal of a provision in 2017 legislation requiring drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. 

“The Natural Resources Committee has a markup coming up and I’m sure that this is something we’ll be debating in the context of that,” Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanBiden leaves meeting saying 'it doesn't matter' when bill is passed Democratic lawmaker calls 'live-leaker' a schmuck and a coward LIVE COVERAGE: Biden tries to unify divided House MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an interview when asked about the possibility of a reversal in the reconciliation package. 

“It’s just no secret that I support this. I’m certainly going to try to push it if we can and we'll see what happens,” he said Wednesday, adding that he “can’t lay out this thing in great detail.” 

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E&E News previously reported that discussions on the matter were taking place among House and Senate leadership and that Huffman was promoting it. 

An aide also confirmed to The Hill that the issue is being looked at. 

House Democrats on Tuesday adopted a rule allowing them to start working on the reconciliation package. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda  Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns MORE (D-Calif.) has asked committee chairs to start working on their pieces of the legislation and report back to the Budget Committee by Sept. 15. 

Huffman said that a Natural Resources markup was slated for Sept. 2, and that specific language could be revealed around that time. 

Green groups have previously called for the infrastructure bills — seen as a major opportunity to pass climate legislation in the narrowly divided Congress — to include provisions that reverse requirements for drilling in the wildlife refuge. 

A 2017 tax bill that was also passed through budget reconciliation — which only requires a simple majority vote to pass legislation — directed the Interior Department to hold two sales of drilling leases in the wildlife refuge by the end of 2024. 

One of those lease sales already occurred during the final days of the Trump administration, though the Biden administration has temporarily suspended those leases. 

“Since this unfortunate Republican law came to us on reconciliation, it sort of invites its own undoing by reconciliation,” Huffman said.