The effort to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling has suffered a major setback – but the fight isn’t over yet.
In the dark of night, all but one Republican in the U.S. Senate voted to approve legislation that will dramatically rewrite our nation’s tax laws. The problems in Congress’ tax bills have been heavily publicized – including in tax increases for 50% of Americans, 13 million fewer people having health insurance, and the deficit increasing by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.
In the middle of the awful Senate bill is also a provision to open up the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Which, yes, has absolutely nothing to do with taxes.
Arctic Refuge drilling was included for one very transparent and craven reason: to buy the vote of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski has been the most ravenous supporter of drilling for nearly two decades, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likely feared she would oppose the bill without her pet provision being included.
It worked – even though the tax bill guts a key part of the Affordable Care Act, which Murkowski fought for several times earlier this year, she violated her principles and supported final passage.
By attaching the Arctic Refuge provision to this bill, Senator Murkowski avoided having to earn 60 votes for its passage. Instead, the overall tax bill was able to pass with a simple majority. This was needed because drilling in the Arctic Refuge simply isn’t popular – and there is broad bipartisan opposition to it across the country.
Not only have Senators Susan Collins and John McCain voted against drilling in the past, but numerous Republican former cabinet officials voiced their opposition – including William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator to Presidents Nixon and Reagan.
While prospects look dim, we are continuing to fight with our partners to get drilling removed from the final bill. The Senate and House bills must now be reconciled in a conference committee, and it is possible that the Arctic Refuge provision is dropped in backroom negotiations.
Last week, 12 House Republicans wrote a letter announcing their opposition to a final bill that includes drilling. If these or other Republicans agree to withhold their vote if Arctic Refuge is drilling, then we can get the language dropped from the final bill.
Thank you for all that you do – the Campion Advocacy Fund won’t ever stop fighting to #ProtectTheArctic.