Murkowski threatens to stall for energy bill

Senator says energy as important as U.S. defense, other issues

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, is threatening to stall Senate business unless Democratic leaders agree to proceed with an energy bill.

Congress is occupied with other business, including responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks such as possible sanctions against countries that support terrorists and a bill aimed at stimulating the economy.

"I am prepared to hold up normal legislative business to get an energy bill to the floor," Murkowski said in a written statement this week. "In my view, energy is just as important to our nation's immediate and long-term interests. It seems to me that energy also fits in with any economic stimulus or national security package under consideration."

Murkowski has not made clear what method he would use, said his spokesman, Chuck Kleeschulte. "There are any number of ways senators can delay normal Senate business."

Murkowski is not threatening to filibuster.

The Senate is working on a bill authorizing next year's defense programs. Murkowski said he has warned the Senate leadership that he'll object to moving the defense authorization bill unless he gets a commitment on energy.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, pulled the $345 billion defense bill off the floor this week because Republicans would not agree on which amendments should be debated.

Daschle said approval of the defense authorization bill is urgent.

"Our troops are counting on it. The Pentagon needs it," he said Wednesday.

Among the amendments standing in the way are two by Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, that would tack to the defense bill a Republican energy bill that includes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Murkowski initially rejected that tactic. Last week, when Congress was trying to respond to the terror attacks with a united front, he said it would be "inappropriate and in poor taste."

This week, though, both Murkowski and Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said the energy amendments should not be taken down without assurances that the Senate will consider an energy bill later.

The House already has passed an energy bill that would allow drilling in ANWR.

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