Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> Defense bill gets approval in House

Leader staff writer

After a long and heated battle Sunday night, members of the House of Representatives passed 308-106 the 2006 defense spending bill that would also open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, but Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., who opposed the drilling, cautions Arkansans that the real vote was much tighter.

He said he and many others voted for the $453 billion defense spending bill, which pays for the wars in Iraq and Af-ghanistan and funds Little Rock Air Force Base, only after failing in a close vote to keep the ANWR drilling provision off the defense bill.
“Don’t get fooled,” Snyder told The Leader Tues-day. “We had the vote on the rule.”

“It basically put everything together — ANWR, money for Katrina relief and for the flu vaccine,” he added.
That vote, which could have stripped the ANWR drilling from the bill, passed by only 214 to 201, he said, with 198 Republicans voting yes, 21 voting no and 12 not voting. Among Democrats, only 16 broke ranks to include the oil drilling provision in the defense spending bill, while 179 opposed and seven didn’t vote.

That vote was taken at 4:10 a.m. Monday.
Senators opposed to drilling in the refuge might attempt to filibuster the defense bill Wednesday.

“I am dismayed that the Repub-lican leadership has made a mockery of the legislative process and placed vital aid to our troops on the ground at risk,” Sen. Blanche Lincoln said.

“Oil drilling in Alaska has been debated and defeated in Congress for almost as long as I’ve been here. It is my hope that this bill not be held hostage to such an unrelated and controversial provision as ANWR.”

“Sen. Mark Pryor is undecided on the filibuster and conflicted on the bill,” said spokesman Lisa Ackerman, who said Pryor had steadfastly opposed the drilling but staunchly supported the military.
social programs cut
About 90 minutes later, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 authorized huge cuts in social programs important to Arkansans passed 211 to 206, Snyder said. It’s not clear that the bill will pass the Senate, he said, but if it does, it will cut student loans by $12.8 billion, and cut child-support enforcement by a billion, bringing total cuts to $39.7 billion over five years.

“This is the wrong bill for Arkansans,” said Snyder. “It makes it easier for deadbeat dads to get away and harder to get a student loan. What’s driving the bill was to find money for a Republican tax-cut bill to benefit the wealthy. It’s bad public policy.”

Snyder said he also was concerned about revelations that President Bush ordered warrant-less wiretaps and spying on Amer-ican citizens. “I think you’ll see Congress look into this in a deliberative manner,” he said.

At least one U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has asked for an investigation into whether or not the president had committed an impeachable crime. Snyder said that in a free society, you have to balance security with civil liberties, but that it had to be done through laws. “The allegation in the New York Times story is that the president didn’t follow the law,” Snyder said. “He says he did.”

Bush says that when Congress authorized him to go after the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks just after Sept. 11, 2001, they authorized him to take such measures.

“I never hear anyone discussing that we were giving authority to do our intelligence gathering differently,” Snyder said.

“I believe there should be a full investigation into exactly who the President authorized the NSA to spy on. If his motive is purely to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies, then an investigation will confirm that. The President has said he welcomes an investigation, and both Republican and Democratic leaders have promised to investigate the matter. I will withhold any further judgment about this program until I have more information.”