Editorial: Arctic vote took courage; thank officials

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2005

As Americans know, the Democratic and Republican parties have pulled apart in recent years. Both parties sit closer to the extreme than they used to.

And neither party holds supermajority strength, either in Congress or the public square. Some say we’re a 50-50 nation, others say we’re 55-45. Either way, it’s pretty close, and it explains how party leaders in Congress know that every vote counts.

That’s why it’s important to pay attention when party members break ranks. It takes political courage to vote your conscience and defy your party’s leadership &045; especially when that leadership really, really wants your vote. North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan have done that on some important occasions; it’s one reason North Dakotans keep returning them to the Senate.

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On Thursday, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., did the same. Coleman voted twice to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s wilderness protections in place. One of the votes would have stripped out of the budget bill a provision to drill for oil in ANWR. The other was on the budget bill itself, which Coleman opposed because the bill still contained the ANWR provisions.

Both votes failed, as far as ANWR goes. The budget passed, and the provision-stripping amendment failed. There’s some chance the House and Senate will be making decisions on ANWR again.

Herald editorials proudly support America’s national park and wildland protection laws. Not for nothing are &8220;spacious skies,&8221; &8220;purple mountains’ majesties&8221; and other natural features honored so prominently in &8220;America the Beautiful&8221;; they’re our nation’s crown jewels, the source of so much of what citizens love about this land.

As for ANWR, former Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus pretty well summed it up: &8220;In some places, such as the Arctic Range, the wildlife and natural values are so magnificent and so enduring that they transcend the value of any mineral that may lie beneath the surface,&8221; he said.

Congratulations to Coleman (and to Sens. Conrad, Dorgan and Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who also voted as Coleman did) for putting principle above politics and voting to keep ANWR’s protections in place.

&045; Grand Forks Herald