Senate blocks ANWR Drilling
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate blocked opening the nation's largest untapped oil reserve in an Alaska wildlife refuge Wednesday, denying President Bush his top energy priority and delivering a victory to environmentalists who said drilling would threaten wildlife.
It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had hoped to garner more votes by putting the measure onto a defense spending bill. That forced senators to choose between supporting the drilling measure, or risking the political fallout from voting against money for the troops and hurricane victims.
Instead, Stevens found himself a few votes shy of getting his wish.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, who led the floor debate in opposition to the drilling provision, called it "legislative blackmail" and said Democrats agreed they "were not going to get jammed" by the tactic.
Republican leaders could not break a Democratic filibuster threat over the drilling issue, falling three votes short of the 60 votes need to advance the defense spending bill to a final vote. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, left the bill in limbo as he, Stevens and other GOP leaders gauged their next move.
The measure was widely expected to be withdrawn and reworked without the refuge language, although Stevens warned he was ready to stay until New Year's if necessary to fight for the drilling, a cause he has pursued for 25 of his 37 years in the Senate.
Democrats as well as a number of Republicans were already angered by Stevens' tactic that delayed action on the $453.5 billion defense bill including $29 billion for hurricane relief, the war and border security, and $2 billion to help low-income households pay this winter's heating expenses.
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