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FAIRBANKS - Sen. Ted Stevens said he has no reservations about adding a provision for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a spending bill for overseas troops and hurricane victims.
"I'm just doing my utmost to do my job, which is getting ANWR passed," Stevens said.
Leading Democrats such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., take a different view.
"I find it outrageous - and unacceptable - that after failing in their budget reconciliation ploy to open the Arctic wilderness to oil drilling, drilling proponents would now try to tamper with the defense spending bill at a time when we have troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," Lieberman said.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has threatened a filibuster. He said Stevens tactic would "hold our troops and hurricane victims hostage" to drilling.
Stevens denied that he was holding any hostages. He will not try to kill the defense bill if he does not succeed in attaching ANWR language, he said.
Stevens is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee. Through that position, he also was named chairman of a temporary House-Senate conference committee appointed to work out differences in the annual defense spending bill passed by both chambers.
Stevens has told members of the conference committee that he intends to put ANWR drilling language in the bill.
Stevens said he continues to also pursue ANWR drilling legislation through the budget reconciliation process. That process come to a halt, Stevens said, because 14 or 15 House Republicans have said they will vote against the budget reconciliation bill if it authorizes drilling. Without their votes, the bill will not pass the House.
With that route blocked, Stevens said, a bipartisan group of House members asked him to put the ANWR measure on the defense spending bill.
"This is an end game, and I've been dealing with end games for many years," Stevens said.
Stevens said he has no doubt that the defense spending bill would be filibustered by Democrats if it carries the language.
He said the Senate should shut down any such filibuster.