The GOP’s backdoor attempt to get around a fillibuster protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge succeeds 51-49:

Amid the backdrop of soaring oil and gasoline prices, a sharply divided Senate on Wednesday voted to open the ecologically rich Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, delivering a major energy policy win for President Bush. The Senate, by a 51-49 vote, rejected an attempt by Democrats and GOP moderates to remove a refuge drilling provision from next year’s budget, preventing opponents from using a filibuster — a tactic that has blocked repeated past attempts to open the Alaska refuge to oil companies. The action, assuming Congress agrees on a budget, clears the way for approving drilling in the refuge later this year, drilling supporters said.

As the National Resources Defense Council responded:

Drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won’t make a dent in gas prices at the pump or break our dependence on Middle East oil. This was really a vote for Big Oil, not for the solid majority of Americans who oppose turning America’s last great wilderness into a vast, polluted oil field. President Bush and his Senate allies resorted to a sneaky budget maneuver to get their way. Now, Congress is one step closer to trading away an irreplaceable national treasure for a few drops of oil that we wouldn’t see for a decade or more. If the oil industry can drill in the Arctic Refuge, then no place, no matter how pristine, will be safe. But there is still a lot of political tundra to cross before this fight is over. We’ll keep battling every step of the way. Increasing America’s energy security doesn’t require selling off our natural heritage and letting oil companies despoil our last best places. Using better technology in our cars and trucks — so they go farther on a gallon of gas — would save more than 10 times the amount of oil in the refuge, and save consumers billions of dollars at the pump.

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