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House Approves Bush Energy Plan - 2001-08-02

President Bush and his allies are savoring a victory in Congress on energy policy, while Democrats vow to block a key part of Mr. Bush's plan.

The House of Representatives approved the president's energy package by a comfortable margin (240-189). But the vote was much closer, 223-206, and the arguments were heated on whether to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

The idea of oil and gas exploration in this part of the Alaskan wilderness has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists. Their Democratic friends are determined to stop the proposal when the Senate takes up the energy bill next month.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle says the anti-drilling forces should have the votes to prevail.

"The vast majority of the American people want us to find our oil elsewhere," he said. "They don't want the tradeoff that ANWR presents. It's six months [worth] of energy destroying in perpetuity a very pristine, a very special part of our country. I don't think that kind of tradeoff is the kind of tradeoff the American people support and its not one that Democrats generally support."

But some of the Democrats' labor union allies are backing the measure because it would mean more jobs. Republicans say drilling would have little effect on the environment and would keep the United States from growing dangerously dependent on foreign oil.

"It enhances our energy security by opening promising areas within the United States to environmentally safe exploration so that Americans will be less dependent upon volatile corners of the world for their energy supply," said the third-ranking House Republican, Congressman Tom DeLay. "This morning the prospects for America's energy security are a lot brighter and we're proud to say, 'Mr. President, mission accomplished.'"

The president says the energy bill's passage shows that he and his team know how to break the Washington gridlock. But some Democrats say they will tie up the Senate in September if that action is necessary to halt the drilling plan.