Senate blocks Republican drilling measure


(LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

S.953, the “Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011,” failed on a 42-to-57 vote, falling far short of the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.

Five Republicans – Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and David Vitter (La.) – joined all Democrats present in voting “no.” One member, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), was not present.

Republicans had contended that the energy plan would have helped reduce the price of gasoline, a key issue on the minds of voters and one that has dominated the legislative action on Capitol Hill over the past several weeks.

“First, and most importantly, our plan would help reduce the price of gas at the pump,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. “By unlocking our own domestic resources, and speeding up the permitting process, our plan would actually do something to increase supply, putting downward pressure on price -- as the Democrat Senator from Missouri said yesterday, ‘The more supply, the less the price.’”

McConnell also contended that the bill would help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“And it would create thousands of energy jobs in America, instead of sending them overseas, which is why this bill has the support of both the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” he added.

Democrats, however, unanimously opposed the bill, arguing that it would not immediately reduce gas prices and would ignore the lessons of last year’s Deepwater Horizon explosion.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who often sides with Republicans on energy-related issues, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that he did not support the measure in part because he believed it could have the unintended consequence of causing fewer drilling applications to be approved, The Hill reported.

“Quite simply, if we place a 30-day fix with two 15-day extensions, I believe we’d see more permits denied than we would see processed,” Manchin said, according to The Hill. “It would create a perverse effect that could encourage government bureaucrats to stop any and all permits, and that would be a terrible outcome.”

The Senate Republican bill followed several similar measures passed by the Republican-majority House earlier this month.

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