A last-minute deal to secure the vote of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on a $2.8 trillion budget plan has given new life to the Republican drive to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
The budget blueprint for fiscal 2007, which will begin in October, includes a $10 billion Gulf Coast restoration fund that would be financed from the leasing of arctic refuge drilling rights, revenue from new drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico and further sales of the broadcast spectrum. With that provision in hand, Landrieu cast the only Democratic vote for the budget resolution, which squeaked through Thursday night, 51 to 49.
"It's not easy being alone on anything. I don't relish this position," Landrieu said. "But, at times, it's necessary."
Republicans, who have been trying to open up the refuge for well over a decade, hope that by explicitly linking oil drilling to Gulf Coast restoration, they can prompt some Democrats to drop their opposition. Under the Senate plan, the funds from oil leases could be used for coastal restoration projects in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that have long been sought by environmentalists. The fund could also be tapped to rebuild levees damaged last year by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Tying ANWR drilling - a naked handout to oil tycoons - to assistance for victims of one of the worst disasters in American history shows that our current leadership has no shame and will stop at nothing to enrich themselves and their friends.