ANWR advances with GOP budget

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a budget plan that could open the door to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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The vote was 219-206. Eighteen Republicans joined the Democrats in voting “no.”

This is an early stage in the process Republican are using to fast-track their proposed tax cuts. So far, ANWR is a lesser-noticed passenger. Alaska Congressman Don Young was one of the few who brought it up in Congressional debates this week. He spoke in favor of drilling in the refuge.

“It is necessary for this nation,” Young said from the House floor Wednesday. “It’s necessary, very frankly, for the good of this Congress. With $20 trillion in debt, I’ve yet to hear anything (else) that’s going to create new wealth.”

Young says development would have a small footprint and won’t disturb the migratory caribou herd.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., argued the anti-drilling case. Beyer says the budget proposal offers a bad deal, especially for the subsistence hunters of ANWR.

“It essentially sacrifices wildlife and environmental protection,” Beyer said, “for tax cuts for the wealthiest.”

ANWR isn’t actually in the budget plan at this phase, but there’s a placeholder for its revenues. This sets the stage for lawmakers to include it in “budget reconciliation,” a type of bill that can’t be filibustered in the Senate.

The Senate version of the budget plan has a similar placeholder. It passed out of a committee Thursday, along party lines.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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