Friday, March 11, 2005

A Backdoor Maneuver

UPDATE: I'm not the only one freaked out about this. See althippo for the most comprehensive and convincing look at the ANWR issue that I've found.

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The Senate Budget Committee yesterday voted to keep language in the $2.56 trillion budget to make sure Senate Democrats cannot filibuster legislation allowing drilling in ANWR. Sen. Russell Feingold, who opposed the lanuage, said boot-strapping the highly devisive ANWR issue onto the budget was "a backdoor maneuver." I agree.

It feels just like a pork-barrel project pinned to a completely unrelated, legitimate piece of legislation. Despite the 12-10 vote, it smells like a midnight rider.

Clearly, whether to drill in ANWR is controversial. But why make it more controversial by using questionable procedural techniques to limit normal debate on the Senate floor? I know that there has been debate about filibustering itself and whether filibustering rules should be changed. But that's another issue altogether.

As it stands, if the proposal to open up ANWR is so controversial that it might cause the Democrats to filibuster it, why would Republicans want to undermine what they obviously believe are the merits of their case by procedurally ham-stringing their opponents? If it passes now and the Dems can make the case that the "backdoor maneuver" made the playing field unfair, honest debate and sober convictions will take second seat to politics, dishonesty, and trickery.

Where does that leave the ANWR debate? Tainted. Where does that leave the American public? Disgusted.

Such a technique begs the question whether the proposal is sound enough to pass at all, regardless of one's political or ethical motivations. If you have to change the rules mid-game, you must be pretty desperate.

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