As the Senate and House both move to begin considering the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2004, both chambers have been talking openly about including revenues from potential lease sales in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Lease sales will generate revenues that could be included in the budget, but only if drilling in the Arctic Refuge has been approved.

This week, the Senate budget committee and the House Budget Committee both begin work on the FY 04 budgets.

On the House side, Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) has stated that he doesn't think Arctic drilling should be part of the budget resolution. The House Budget committee began deliberations on the budget resolution on Wednesday, March 12. Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, for the third year in a row, declined to include assumptions of drilling revenue in the resolution, which provides the broad framework for the annual spending and tax bills. The resolution is non-binding, but merely serves as a blueprint.

Nevertheless, the threat to the Refuge looms large in the House of Representatives. While the current budget resolution is silent on the issue of Arctic drilling, it does not expressly prohibit drilling. The budget resolution includes across the board spending cuts, and the House Resources Committee has broad latitude to meet this target. It is well within the power of the House Resources Committee to choose to follow the House budget language by allowing drilling to raise their required revenues. Resources Chairman Richard Pombo has made no secret of his intention to pursue Arctic drilling, and today presided over a hearing on separate legislation to open the Arctic Refuge. The budget committee rejected by a vote of 24-19 an amendment offered by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would explicitly prohibit the Resourec Committee from passing legislation that allows drilling in the Arctic Refuge. The end result is that the final budget resolution is silent on the whole question and leaves it up to the House Resources Committee.

On the Senate side, Senate Republicans said Tuesday (March 11) they fully anticipate a provision on developing oil in the Arctic Refuge to be included as part of a budget measure to be taken up by the full Senate next week. The Senate budget committee will be taking up the measure on Wednesday, March 12 also. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-OK), an avid drilling supporter, easily has the votes in the committee to pass a budget with Arctic drilling in it. Once the committee passes the bill, the full Senate will vote on the budget sometime during the week of March 16 - 22.