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GOP Scraps ANWR Drilling, But Budget Battle Persists


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

We're going to start this hour on Capitol Hill, where Republicans leaders were forced to pull their budget cutting bill from the floor this afternoon. Conservatives and moderate Republicans wrangled over details all day. Party leaders even offered to strip a portion of the bill that would have authorized oil drilling in Alaska, but the deal fell apart for now. NPR's Andrea Seabrook has the story.


Republican leaders insist that it was lawmakers Veterans Day plans that forced them to pull this bill from the floor today and, said GOP conference leader Deborah Pryce, they'll just bring it up next week instead.

Representative DEBORAH PRYCE (Republican, Ohio): Every member has certain things that they have trouble with, and we just virtually ran out of time.

SEABROOK: But the longer it takes Republicans to get this bill passed, the longer Democrats have to wail against its $50 billion in cuts to Medicaid, school lunches, food stamps and other programs. Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said they would keep up the pressure.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Minority Leader): It was a bill that was anti-family, anti-taxpayer, anti-American. And their pulling it today is a failure on the part of the Republicans.

SEABROOK: Moderate Republicans are feeling that pressure, and not just from Democrats. The moderate Main Street Caucus opposes many parts of their own party's bill, especially the measure to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil drilling. Washington state's Dave Reichert said his office phones have been ringing off the hook.

Representative DAVE REICHERT (Republican, Washington): Within the last week and a half or so alone, my office took nearly 1,600 phone calls, e-mails, etc., coming in, and they were running about 95 percent in favor of not drilling in ANWR.

SEABROOK: And so moderate leaders, including New Hampshire's Charlie Bass, brokered a deal with Republican leaders to get ANWR out of the bill.

Representative CHARLIE BASS (Republican, New Hampshire): At this point, the budget package will not contain the provisions to drill in the arctic refuge.

SEABROOK: The operative words here are `at this point.' Republican leaders made no promises to moderates that ANWR wouldn't be just popped back in the bill when the budget goes into House-Senate negotiations. But Maryland's Wayne Gilchrest says they're standing firm.

Representative WAYNE GILCHREST (Republican, Maryland): If a conference report comes back with ANWR in it, then we will vote against it.

SEABROOK: Other Republicans have their own problems with the bill, so leaders will have a lot of work to do if they're going to try to bring it up again next week. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.