Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, bowing to pressure from GOP moderates, stripped provisions that allow oil and gas drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore in the Lower 48 from a $54 billion budget reconciliation bill late Nov. 9.
A group of 30 moderate Republicans, led by Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., voiced objections to the legislation earlier, vowing to vote against it if ANWR, offshore drilling and cuts to certain entitlement programs remained in the bill. The sweeping bill trims government programs such as Medicaid and food stamps and alters several regulations in an effort to reduce the federal deficit. The House Resources Committee included ANWR drilling in the bill to generate $2.5 billion in new revenue.
The concession, which also lessened cuts to food stamps, came during a meeting of the House Rules Committee, the final stop for the Deficit Reduction Act before it heads to the House floor.
The move, however, offers no guarantee the bill will pass. Forty conservative Republicans from western states vowed earlier in the week to oppose a bill that did not contain ANWR drilling.
Two hours of debate on the legislation was scheduled for Nov. 10, but House leadership is not expected to call for a vote on the bill until they corral the 218 votes needed to pass the legislation. ANWR drilling, meanwhile, made it into the budget reconciliation bill that the Senate passed with a five-vote margin Nov. 3. Given the support of the House leadership, this means the final budget reconciliation bill expected to emerge from conference after Thanksgiving likely will contain ANWR drilling.
Editorís note: The full story will be in the Nov. 13 issue of Petroleum News