The New York Times falsely suggested that only Senate Democrats have "assailed" Sen. Ted Stevens's (R-AK) proposed move to ensure passage of a provision to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by attaching it to the 2006 Senate defense bill. In fact, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a Republican and one of the conferees on the defense bill, is strongly opposed to the plan.
In a December 16 article by reporter Carl Hulse, The New York Times falsely suggested that only Senate Democrats have "assailed" Sen. Ted Stevens's (R-AK) proposed move to ensure passage of a provision to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by attaching it to the 2006 Senate defense bill. Hulse also reported -- without refutation -- the highly deceptive claim by unnamed Senate "aides" that no "chief defense spending negotiators" have objected to Stevens's proposal.
In fact, while it is unclear whether the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services committee -- reportedly the primary negotiators of the bill in the Senate -- object to Stevens's plan, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is one of the conferees and negotiators on the defense bill, is strongly opposed to the plan. McCain described Stevens's move as "disgusting" and "disgraceful," as both The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times noted. The Los Angeles Times also reported that Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) disapproves of Stevens's plan and that a bipartisan group of senators has begun drafting a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) opposing the measure.
Although a December 8 CongressDaily report suggested that negotiations on the Senate defense bill (S. 1042) have been "limited largely" to the "chairman and ranking members of the [House and Senate] Armed Services committees," McCain, the second-ranking Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a conferee on the bill and has also been active in negotiations on it, sponsoring an amendment to it that would ban cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. McCain has expressed his steadfast opposition to Stevens's proposal to attach the ANWR drilling provision to the defense bill, as a December 16 Post article reported:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also sharply criticized Stevens's effort as "disgusting." But asked how he would vote on such a bill, McCain said: "That's the dilemma. I'd have to look at the whole bill. I think it's disgraceful that I have to be put in that position."
Further, McCain is not the only Senate Republican who has objected to Stevens's proposal. As a December 16 Los Angeles Times article reported, Coleman also opposes the plan to attach the ANWR provision to the defense bill, while a group of "senators from each party" is drafting a letter to Frist stating that senators "ought not to exploit ... the well-being of our troops" in order to advance the ANWR provision by attaching it to the defense bill. From the Los Angeles Times:
Democratic leaders were pressing their rank and file to stick together to strip the drilling measure from the military spending bill. Their central argument -- that Arctic drilling did not belong in a military appropriations bill -- also resonated with some Republicans.
Several senators from each party who have opposed Arctic drilling acknowledged that adding the measure to the bill would put them in a difficult position.
A group was drafting a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) saying that senators "ought not to exploit ... the well-being of our troops" to advance the drilling measure.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a drilling opponent, said he wasn't sure how he would vote if the bill included the drilling measure.
"That's the dilemma," McCain said in an interview. "I think it's disgraceful I have to be put in that position."
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), another drilling opponent, said that adding the measure to the military appropriations bill would make the vote "very uncomfortable for me."
From the New York Times article titled "Republicans Try to Outflank Democrats on Key Measures":
Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, said he would try to achieve his longstanding goal of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration by adding the plan to a spending bill for the Pentagon. That move was likely to set up a procedural clash that could determine the fate of a separate proposal to enact about $45 billion in spending cuts.
"I have waited 25 years now," said Mr. Stevens, 82, who acknowledged that his approach amounted to a legislative end run. "God willing I have stayed here this long. I don't have another 25 years."
Democrats assailed the plan, which Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, called an "egregious abuse of power on behalf of the oil and gas industry to violate the Senate's rules and attach a special interest provision to this bill."
Mr. Stevens met Thursday with the other chief defense spending negotiators, and aides said there was no objection to adding the artic plan. Those conducting negotiating conferences have wide latitude to shape such measures, though the inclusion of extraneous provisions can often build opposition.
The negotiators must still make a formal decision to add it to the defense bill. Lawmakers and aides in the House and the Senate said privately that they were skeptical that Mr. Stevens could clear all the procedural and political obstacles to winning approval of his plan.
One top aide said there was also some concern that the defense measure was being packed with too many controversial initiatives.
Environmental activists who had been able to block the drilling plan as part of the budget measure said they were lobbying to strip it from the defense bill through the procedural challenge or by encouraging drilling opponents to support a filibuster.
"It is a shameless move by Senator Stevens - cynical, inappropriate and undemocratic," said Athan Manuel, who has been leading the effort by an advocacy organization, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, to block the drilling plan.