The House of Representatives, in a somewhat anti-climatic move Thursday, passed a slimmed-down defense appropriations bill that excluded a provision to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, as well as $2 billion in emergency funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The House approved the $453 billion spending bill (HR 2863) after the Senate lawmakers Wednesday in a day of explosive drama were forced to strip out the contentious ANWR provision, along with emergency funding for LIHEAP and other initiatives, to get the defense spending bill passed before adjourning for the year. Pro-drilling forces in the Senate were unable to head off a threatened Democratic filibuster of the bill over the hot-button, divisive ANWR drilling issue (see Daily GPI, Dec. 22).

President Bush applauded Capitol Hill’s passage of the military appropriations measure, although the absence of ANWR drilling was a major defeat for his administration. Even so, he is expected to sign the legislation.

The House and Senate rejection of ANWR also were a stinging setback for the oil and natural gas industry, as well as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) who, by inserting ANWR in the defense appropriations bill, wagered that Democrats and moderate Republicans would not withhold military spending in a time of war.

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