Hulk meets his match in drilling fight
Sen. Ted Stevens was wearing his Incredible Hulk tie when he took the Senate gavel Wednesday to oversee debate about his proposal to allow...
Seattle Times Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens was wearing his Incredible Hulk tie when he took the Senate gavel Wednesday to oversee debate about his proposal to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He often sports the comic-book character tie when slugging it out over issues close to his heart.
What he didn't know was that his top opponent on the drilling provision, Washington's Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, had found an Incredible Hulk tie in the Senate cloakroom the previous night and donned it while she worked the phones to round up anti-drilling votes.
It's not clear whether the tie Cantwell found belongs to Stevens, R-Alaska. But she beat congressional oddsmakers and surprised herself with three more votes than needed to block the drilling proposal from going to the Senate floor.
"This vote today is a tribute to her tenacity and skill," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "She stood up to a powerful member of the Senate. Today was a big win."
Reid made Cantwell the Senate Democrats' energy point-person in September, setting into motion Wednesday's confrontation.
Over the weekend, after Stevens and Alaska's only congressman, Republican Rep. Don Young, signaled they wanted to attach drilling in the refuge to the $453.5 billion defense-spending bill, Cantwell began tracking down colleagues. "She was here the whole weekend working with Senator Reid on strategy and tactics," Manley said.
The House easily passed the defense bill with the drilling provision early Monday.
In the Senate, Cantwell and Reid lined up votes to oppose an attempt to end debate on the defense bill.
Late Tuesday, Cantwell heard the White House was sending its lobbyists to Capitol Hill, calling senators wherever they could be found, to block a pro-filibuster vote.
Cantwell matched the White House call for call. Her main concern: veteran Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who opposed the inclusion of ANWR drilling in the defense bill.
Cantwell said she worried she would lose allies such as DeWine when she heard the vice president was flying back to D.C. to help with any close votes in the Senate. "So I said to Mike, 'We don't have to worry about Dick Cheney finding you, do we?' But he was resolute," Cantwell said. Early Wednesday, Cantwell went home, changed clothes and was back to the Senate by 8 a.m. "The scenario changed many times during the morning," she said. Until the votes were counted, she didn't know whether she'd win.
Cantwell said she expects ANWR drilling to surface again. But now she's leaving for a skiing trip in the Cascades. The resort: Stevens Pass.
Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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