Senate Gearing Up for Fight Over Oil Drilling in Alaska

Republicans favoring exploitation of Wildlife Refuge plan to try to win approval with simple majority instead of 60 votes required to block a filibuster.

Published: 09-Mar-2005

WASHINGTON, March 8 - After years of watching Democrats block President Bush's plan to allow oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, Senate Republicans say they are planning a legislative maneuver to push it through that would avoid the threat of filibusters, which have killed the measure in the past.

The maneuver, which senators and Congressional aides said would be made public Wednesday as part of the Senate budget resolution, would open the door to drilling with a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of the 60 required to block a filibuster. The same move failed two years ago, but with 55 Republican senators - four more than before - proponents of the drilling say they have fresh hope that Congress will vote this year to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a central component of Mr. Bush's energy policy.

"The people who are for this, ANWR, have to have 51 votes," said Senator Pete V. Domenici, the New Mexico Republican and champion of the drilling provision, using the acronym (pronounced AN-war) for the refuge. "The people who are against it can take it out with 51 votes. All we're saying is, that seems pretty American, pretty fair."

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