Tuesday, December 20, 2005
WASHINGTON - Texas senators said Tuesday the state will get another $11.2 million in emergency money to pay for hurricane costs, but money for schools with children who fled Hurricane Katrina remained knotted up in a Senate standoff over oil drilling in an Alaska refuge.
The money for transportation and housing costs comes from $62 billion Congress made available for recovery after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Texas has received more than $250 million, said Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
Senate Democrats and some GOP moderates were threatening to filibuster the defense spending bill, which contains money for Texas and other states that took in students who fled Katrina. The House on Monday approved $645 million to cover those costs, but it attached to the bill a measure allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The ANWR provision triggered a political standoff in the Senate, where opposition to drilling is strong. Opponents argue the defense bill is not the place for the measure, which previously passed in the Senate as part of a deficit reduction bill.
Under the ANWR measure, money from oil lease payments and royalties would go into a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund for hurricane-ravaged states. Texas would get 10 percent of that money, said Courtney Boone, spokeswoman for Rep. Ted Stevens, R-Ala., the ANWR sponsor.
Democrats and some moderate Republicans were working Wednesday to get the ANWR measure knocked off the bill, which could mean a vote as early as Wednesday, before the holiday recess.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on the Senate floor that loading the defense bill with the ANWR measure "is an outrage."
"It's high noon. It's a showdown," he said. "If you load up the bill that has to pass with these outrageous and controversial provisions ... (you) are defying the members to stand up and say no."
Cornyn acknowledged, "This is, by any definition, an ugly process.
"I'm going to vote for it because it's a must-pass piece of legislation, but I would much rather we handle it in a more orderly fashion."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has pressed for passage of the defense measure, saying those who are stalling a vote were thwarting the will of the Senate. She said the Pentagon bill is a pro