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Wednesday November 22nd, 2017 2:30AM

The Latest: Senate moves provision to allow Arctic drilling

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Trump, Congress and $4.1 trillion budget plan (all times EDT):

9 p.m.

The Senate has moved a step closer to ending the longstanding ban on oil and gas exploration in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

As Republicans controlling the Senate sped through amendments to push their $4 trillion budget plan through to passage, the provision to open oil drilling in the Arctic preserve survived Thursday.

The House passed a parallel amendment last week as part of its version of the budget.

The Trump administration has pushed the drilling plan, a longtime GOP goal, as a way to help pay for sweeping tax cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders.

Democrats and environmental groups have denounced the move as a handout to Big Oil, saying it would defile a crown jewel of U.S. wilderness.

___

6 p.m.

A Florida senator is blocking one of President Donald Trump's nominees in frustration over the White House's decision to delay disaster money for the state's citrus growers.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson says in a statement Thursday he was disappointed with Trump's decision not to add money for citrus growers to a $36.5 billion disaster aid package.

The House passed the bill last week and the Senate is on track to back it in the next few days.

Nelson says Trump indicated the money would be in a supplemental spending bill in November.

The senator says: "So I just put a hold on one of his nominees to make sure we get this money."

The nominee is Russell Vought, Trump's pick for deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget.

__

1:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he thinks Senate Republicans have the votes for their budget — hours after tweeting his uncertainty.

Trump needs the Senate to follow the House and pass the spending blueprint so lawmakers can move on to the tax cuts he wants.

The Senate plans a late-night vote on the budget, and Trump predicted it will roll over into Friday morning.

Trump said: "I think we're in really good shape." He had tweeted early Thursday, "I think we have the votes, but who knows?"

So far, just one of 52 Senate Republicans has expressed opposition to the plan.

Trump commented during an Oval Office meeting with Puerto Rico's governor. The president said he has "great respect" for Sen. Thad Cochran, who is ailing and flew in from Mississippi to vote.

___

6:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump is rooting for fellow Senate Republicans to succeed in efforts to pass a massive $4.1 trillion budget plan. But in a tweet before daybreak Thursday, the president said, "I think we have the votes, but who knows?"

Trump noted in the post that "Republicans are going for the big Budget approval today, first step toward massive tax cuts."

Trump and Senate Republicans are buoyed about prospects for passage of the budget blueprint because if Congress completes action on this legislation, it will set the stage for majority Republicans to focus more intensively on the tax overhaul legislation. Trump campaigned on the issue and GOP lawmakers have embraced it.

They are all hoping for a smashing legislative victory to atone for the party's failure to deliver on it's long-promised effort to repeal former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

___

4:19 a.m.

Senate Republicans are on track to pass a $4 trillion budget plan that shelves GOP deficit concerns in favor of the party's drive to cut taxes.

The nonbinding budget plan, slated for a vote late Thursday, would set the stage for tax legislation later this year that could pass through the Senate without fear of a filibuster by Democrats — and add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

The upcoming tax measure, always a top item on the GOP agenda this year, has taken on even greater urgency with the failure of the party to carry out its longstanding promise to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

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