Senate blocks attempt to allow drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

The &to=' target=_blank>Senate on Wednesday narrowly blocked a Republican plan to tap into the nation's largest untapped reservoir of oil beneath the frozen tundra of an Alaska wildlife refuge.

Drilling supporters fell four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a Democrat-led filibuster, a procedural move to delay or derail legislation. The vote was 56-44.

Republicans had hoped to win passage by making the oil drilling issue part of a popular defense spending bill that has money for troops in Iraq and relief for &to=' target=_blank>Hurricane Katrina victims. Because of Wednesday's vote, Senate leaders are expected to rework the bill to eliminate the oil-drilling proposal.

The vote was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican who represents Alaska and has waged an intense fight for years to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He had thought this time he would finally get his wish by tying the proposal to a must-pass defense bill.

Stevens called the refuge's oil important to national security and bemoaned repeated attempts over the years that were killed in filibusters mounted by those opposed to drilling.

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