ANCHORAGE (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens says he thinks there are now enough votes in the Senate to win approval for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but not enough votes to halt a filibuster on the issue.
Stevens, R-Alaska, made his comments at a news conference Tuesday in Anchorage. He said 51 senators now support drilling, but it would take a vote of 60 senators to break a filibuster. Democrats already have indicated they're prepared to filibuster, if necessary, to block any legislation that includes the refuge issue.
Stevens would not disclose which senators he felt had shifted their position on the issue. He attributes the shifting sentiment in the Senate to lobbying efforts by the Teamsters Union, including a brochure produced by the group.
''It points out the need for continued exploration,'' Stevens said of the brochure.
During a visit to Alaska in April, Stevens said there weren't enough votes in the Senate to approve drilling in the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic refuge. Development of the refuge is at the core of President Bush's energy plan.
When Democrats took control of the Senate in May Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., pronounced as ''dead'' the idea of drilling for oil in ANWR.
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