WASHINGTON – With Republicans in control of both chambers on Capitol Hill, issues such as cutting the budget, controlling spending and authorizing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be easy to solve.
But they're not.
Republicans have battled Democrats to open ANWR to oil drilling for more than a decade, but now that drilling is closer than ever with the Senate approval of petroleum exploration last week, a tiny band of moderate House Republicans stands in the way.
Click into the video tab to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.
"It is a little bit ironic, but there always been a strong cadre of Republicans who have opposed drilling in the ANWR," said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del.
Twenty-five House Republicans wrote to GOP leaders Tuesday threatening to withhold support for a $54 billion dollar deficit reduction bill unless a provision on drilling in ANWR was removed. GOP leaders said they remained committed to ANWR drilling, but didn't as yet have the votes to prevail.
"We are working towards making sure that we bring this package as whole to the floor and that's all I can say about that," said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the chief deputy whip for the majority party.
On Tuesday, top Senate Republicans warned their House counterparts not to buckle.
"We should do ANWR, far more important than any other provision" of the deficit reduction bill, said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
ANWR drilling is in a bill to cut federal spending to offset the costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It's the first GOP effort to cut federal spending in eight years, and passage is seen as a crucial test of party unity.
But moderate Republicans say it's easier to defy leadership in the wake of indictments of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and vice presidential chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby as well as President Bush's own record low approval ratings.
"It's a function of self-preservation to a degree," Castle said. "Everyone runs for re-election in November in the House of Representatives and people at some point are going to vote their districts."
Making passage of the deficit reduction bill more complicated is unanimous Democratic opposition to it.
"What they're trying to do is cut programs that you and I care about," said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif.
In the past, conservative Democrats, the so-called Blue Dogs, supported GOP efforts to cut the deficit. Republicans are now searching in vain for last minute converts.
"My hope is that the Blue Dogs will join us and will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
But those moderate Democrats say they won't support deficit reduction when the GOP soon plans to extend $70 billion in tax cuts.
"We shouldn't go taking resources that help the middle class and poor, working Americans' mouths and families to pay for tax cuts on the other side," said Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn.
Late Tuesday, House Republicans had fewer than 180 of the necessary 218 votes to pass the deficit reduction bill. ANWR is a problem, but language to open up offshore drilling on the Eastern seaboard is too. As yet, GOP leaders have not figured out a solution to the intra-party collision of environmental and budget politics.
Click in the video tab above to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.