Monday, December 19


Morally bankrupt pondslime.

Federal authorization to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge moved closer to becoming law Sunday night as House and Senate conferees tied the controversial energy program to a must-pass spending bill to fund the war in Iraq and other defense needs.

The House was expected to approve the $453 billion defense conference report in the early hours of Monday before turning to legislation that would cut federal spending for Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and other programs by nearly $42 billion over five years.

Drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge has long been a subject of great controversy in Congress. Proponents say it is essential to giving the nation energy independence. Opponents say it would disrupt an environmentally pristine area of the world for little long-term benefit.

By fusing the Arctic drilling legislation with the critical defense spending measure, Republican leaders made it extremely difficult for lawmakers to vote no without looking like they were failing to support American troops in Iraq.

"Republicans are holding funding for our military hostage in order to give a huge holiday gift to the oil industry," charged Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

The tactic also infuriated Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who accused Republicans of "changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game." That's because arctic drilling is not considered relevant to defense spending, and was not submitted to the conference by either chamber.

"The arrogance of power of the Republicans in the House and the Senate is beyond my ability to comprehend," said Reid, who threatened to slow down the work of the Senate in the final hours of the session before Christmas.


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