Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nelson Votes Against Alaska Drilling Before Voting "For" It

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson broke ranks with the Democratic Party, disappointing progressive citizens across the country who care about the enviroronment and safe-guarding our natural world by supporting a bill that will open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
The Senate on Thursday narrowly approved the first cuts since 1997 to benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and farm subsidies, giving Republicans a modest victory against ever-rising government spending.

The bill, passed by a 52-47 vote, makes mild cuts to the health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled but leaves the food stamp program untouched.

The measure also permits exploratory oil drilling in an Alaskan wilderness area. Five Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate who oppose the drilling voted against the bill....

The Senate bill is estimated to trim $36 billion, or 2 percent, from budget deficits forecast at $1.6 trillion over five years. The cuts total $6 billion for the plan's first year, with deficits predicted to exceed $300 billion....

The long-planned budget measure would make the first cuts to mandatory programs since 1997. These programs account for 55 percent of the budget and include Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies and student loan subsidies....

Democrats generally opposed the bill.

Yet Republicans did pick up the support of two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, whose hurricane-devastated state won emergency aid under the bill.

I have no intention of being a stooge or constant apologist for Sen. Nelson, but it's really not fair to Nelson on the environment to neglect reporting that today he had first voted to remove the ANWR drilling provision from the larger spending bill he ultimately supported. That measure, sponsored by WA Senator Maria Cantwell, failed 51-48 despite Nelson's support, largely because of the mysterious "nay" votes of Hawaii's two Democratic senators who then turned around and rejected the loaded bill they'd just kept intact.

While Nelson can reasonably claim some measure of consistency and honor by standing up for the environment on a specific Amendment but being compelled to support a more comprehensive bill of which it was only a single provision, I can't begin to understand the absurd vote jockeying by Hawaii's delegation that negated Nelson's effort to create the best bill possible.

Of course, I'm not defending Nelson's final vote on the bill. I'm only hoping to provide a little perspective for those who will react angrily to Nelson's vote on the basis of the ANWR provision. If you're disappointed with his vote for the bill's cost-saving on the backs of college students and the working poor, I'm with you all the way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the lesson to be derived is that Ben Nelson feels so strongly that we should cut the budget for key social services to the most disadvantaged that it overrides his desire to protect ANWR from oil drilling. Oh good grief.

Blogger rew said...

This is Hawaii's second brush at ANWR weirdness, they did it once before when it came up the first time. My theory is that they've made a little payoff so that My Senator could "vote his conscience" without the bill getting struck down.


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