Ensign swings into city to talk business – in nation | NevadaAppeal.com

Ensign swings into city to talk business – in nation

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer

Chalking up another visit to the state capital during a legislative hiatus, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said Thursday he helped push through major reforms – on such things as class-action lawsuits and bankruptcy filing – but controversy surrounding drilling in the Alaskan wilderness is holding up a comprehensive energy policy that would lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Here are the facts, and I’m going to be as objective as possible, ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) is about the size of South Carolina … and the one particular area where we’re going to drill is about twice the size of McCarran Airport,” he said to 125 people at the Northern Nevada Development Authority’s membership breakfast in the Piñon Plaza.

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is 2,820 acres, or 4.41 square miles.

He called it a small speck comparatively in an area that’s “a frozen tundra 10-and-a-half months out of the year.”

Ensign said those opposed to ANWR drilling are politically or financially motivated.

“There are a lot of organizations in D.C. that use issues (such as ANWR) to raise money to keep them going,” he said.

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Ensign said he agrees with the other half of Nevada’s senatorial delegation, Harry Reid, the highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, when it comes to state issues, but they vote the polar opposite on every hot-button national issue.

He briefly touched on several of those issues – judicial filibustering, which is a method of blocking presidential judicial nominees from going to a vote that Republicans are seeking to banish in the Senate, reforming Social Security, and the methods of the global war on terrorism.

“As Americans we can be really proud of the job our men in uniform have done,” he said, which received applause from the audience. Several members of the armed forces sat on the sidelines, waiting to receive senatorial certificates.

Ensign contrasted the exuberant Iraqi voters who yearn for freedom amid threats of retaliation with those Americans who sit home on Election Day. He also called for perseverance.

“We can never defeat the insurgents,” he said. “We inspire more of them. But we can train the Iraqis to fight them.”

Larry Messina, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Commercial, said Ensign is a great salesman for President Bush’s Social Security reform proposal.

“The way he explained the benefits of the private accounts, I think he explained it better than what I’ve ever heard before,” he said.

Shelley Bennett, a retired military officer who was visiting family here, said she appreciated Ensign’s civility toward his political opponents.

“But I would’ve liked to have seen him talk more about counterterrorism,” she said. “It’s a national issue that affects more people on the state level than you can imagine.”

– Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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