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December 20, 2005
Stevens: I'm Here All Month, And Don't Forget To Tip The Waitresses

Senator Ted Stevens has raised the temperature in the Senate by attaching ANWR drilling to the defense appropriations bill that needed to get signed to keep the troops funded in the field. Senate Democrats howled at the supposed breach of rules, and Harry Reid has promised to block all sorts of Senate business as a result. Now Stevens has raised the ante on Reid, threatening to Grinch the Senate into working right through the holiday season and forcing them to give up their Christmas:

It's an audacious power play, even for Sen. Ted Stevens.

The wily and cantankerous Alaska Republican is trying to secure the mother of all pet projects for his state: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stevens has attached the provision to a popular defense spending bill and has put holiday plans of his Senate colleagues on hold as he dares Democratic and moderate Republican opponents to vote against it. ...

Even more ominous for impatient senators, he appeared to be in no rush. "I could go all month," Stevens said on the Senate floor Monday. "I've been with it for 25 years."

Stevens is not usually one of my favorite Senators, especially given his love affair with the pork barrel at taxpayer's expense. However, this cause raises my estimation of the Alaskan at least a notch or two. We finally have a GOP Senator who hasn't put "comity" as the overriding concern of their service in Congress, but in actually getting things done. ANWR drilling makes sense and has the support of a clear majority in both houses of Congress. The only hurdle has been Democratic obstructionism by filibustering the legislation every time it comes up, an undemocratic but legal maneuver for that chamber.

Now, however, the GOP has played hardball by attaching ANWR to an unfilibusterable bill, one that if rejected would defund the DoD while we're at war and American troops fight in the field. This bill also got endorsed by a joint conference committee and passed overwhelmingly in the House, putting even more pressure on Democrats to pass it. Reid's threats have caused Bill Frist to back down in the past to maintain the old-boy nature of debate in the Senate, but Stevens has had enough of delaying tactics over 25 years on ANWR. He makes it clear that Christmas in DC sounds just fine to him, and he'd like nothing better than to celebrate the holiday with 99 of his closest co-workers ... and not just the Senators, of course, but their staffers and volunteers, and so on.

Stevens is putting on a school for hardball for his Republican colleagues, who in several conflicts with Reid and the Democrats have shown a burning need for such an education. Stevens may have his flaws, but in this case, he's absolutely right.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2005 7:04 AM

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