Senators promise filibuster if ANWR language reaches floor

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The approval Wednesday night of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by the U.S. House brought renewed promises of filibusters to stop the proposal in the Senate.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told reporters he would filibuster any ANWR-drilling language on the Senate floor. A filibuster, an indefinitely long speech, can only be terminated by a vote of 60 senators. Democrats hold a 50-49 edge in the Senate, which has one independent.

''I feel strongly from the people I've talked to that there are an enormous number of votes to stop this from happening,'' Kerry told the Washington, D.C. correspondent of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and other reporters at a news conference.

A filibuster can go on as long as the speaker desires and stop all other action on the Senate floor. A limiting factor is the endurance of the speaker. The more senators willing to participate in a filibuster effort, the stronger it becomes.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said he has heard filibuster promises from Kerry and three other senators: Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.; Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and; Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Kerry acknowledged, however, that ''different dynamics'' can affect the strength of a filibuster.

That's what drilling supporters are counting on. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Interior Secretary Gale Norton lauded the House action on ANWR, part of a Bush administration national energy plan, in a separate afternoon news conference with senators and union and business representatives.

Norton credited labor unions with turning several ANWR votes in the House using explanations of the environmental and employment issues.

''Last night's vote shows that when people study the issue ... then they understand that such a vast energy store should be included in a national energy plan,'' she said.

Reporters crowded around Jerry Hood, chief executive officer of Alaska Teamsters, after the news conference, asking how he would approach the Senate.

''We're going to assess that over the next month'' while Congress is on break, Hood said. ''We're still in a little bit of afterglow from the vote in the House.''

''I think we're going to double our efforts on this side,'' Hood said. He would not say how many senators the unions need to convince.

''The minute we do, the opposition swarms on whoever they think we're talking about,'' he said.

Hood said no single argument turned the House. He said unions had ''the environmental facts'' and ''weren't lying.''

''I also think it was a major jobs issue,'' he said. From 1980 to today, he said, oil companies working on the North Slope have spent $50 billion in the United States for ''toilet paper, toothpaste, pickup trucks, oil rigs and the like.''

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said he similar arguments in the Senate will preserve the ANWR-drilling language.

''Let's get it down to the science and the technology,'' he said.

Kerry said House approval of drilling was disappointing because it forces senators to fight an old battle.

''Drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge destroys the very concept of a wildlife refuge,'' he said. ''A refuge is a refuge, and by definition when drilling takes place in it, it ceases to be a refuge.''

Murkowski said more than 30 wildlife refuges around the country allow oil and gas development, including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Kerry was joined at his news conference by Daschle, Lieberman and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

''Every single one of us here believes there are many other alternatives,'' Kerry said, citing photovoltaics, hydrogen cells and wind power.

Kerry said he hopes that the ANWR-drilling provision will not make it to the Senate floor next month when Senate committees are expected to finish their own version of a national energy policy.

Murkowski has said he has a shot at getting ANWR-drilling language out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which he is the ranking minority member.

A tie-breaking vote could come from one undecided Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. A Landrieu spokesman said earlier this week that the senator will not decide on ANWR until next month.

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