Victory on ANWR
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell earned legitimate crowing rights with an impressive win that prevents oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
This fight isn't over. But the junior senator from Washington, joined and aided by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, faced a formidable challenger in Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens. He vowed to open the pristine refuge to oil drilling to help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Maneuvering and fighting over ANWR has been going on for decades. This year, with Republican control of the House, Senate and White House, Stevens felt he had a chance to prevail.
He almost did.
But last weekend, Cantwell stayed back in Washington, D.C., while many colleagues returned home. She heard Stevens had a new plan for forcing approval of drilling. Her instincts were correct.
Stevens' strategy had been blocked in the House, which opposed inclusion of drilling in the budget bill, so he moved to include it in a military spending bill. Stevens also had on his side added pressure of keeping Congress in session into the holiday. Powerful stuff.
But Cantwell and others collected two more votes than needed, including three Republicans, to allow open-ended debate, which means drilling in ANWR is dead for now.
Stevens can try again next year to attach drilling to a bill that does not allow the procedural tactic of a filibuster.
Cantwell doggedly represented those constituents who want the refuge protected. She argued persuasively the refuge represents only a small amount of oil and the nation should focus instead on finding alternative forms of energy.
The fight over the refuge is not over, but this victory is a big one.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company