WASHINGTON — The House and most of the Louisiana congressional delegation voted Wednesday to undo President Barack Obama’s offshore drilling plan through 2017 and instead open up drilling along the nation’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The 253-170 House vote came the same day Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced the bipartisan co-sponsored OPEN Act — Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now — that would expand drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts similarly as well, while also eliminating the $500 million cap on revenue sharing for states such as Louisiana with offshore drilling.
Neither bill is expected to go much further, if ever, at least until after the Nov. 6 presidential election.
The same applies to other bills being voted on this week, including the successful 51-48 Senate vote Wednesday on a bill similar to Obama’s proposal to extend all the existing income tax cuts next year only to American households making $250,000 a year or less.
Likewise, the Republican-controlled House is expected to approve extending all of the Bush-and-Obama-era income tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. The tax cuts are currently set to expire after December unless Congress acts.
As for offshore drilling, Obama’s plan focuses on domestic drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while eventually expanding more oil-and-gas production off the Alaskan coast.
For now, Obama only wants to update surveying data and study drilling off the Atlantic coast.
Republicans and the Landrieu bill, which is co-sponsored by three Republicans and the two Democratic senators from Virginia, would expand more drilling off the coast of California and much of the Atlantic coast, especially off of Virginia.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has a separate Senate bill to expand drilling introduced earlier this month, but that bill does not touch on revenues for Gulf states.
The Louisiana House delegation all voted to buck the Obama drilling plan, except for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, who missed Wednesday’s votes because he was in New Orleans with Obama at the National Urban League’s annual conference.
Several members of the Louisiana delegation took to the House floor Tuesday and Wednesday to criticize Obama’s drilling policies, including political opponents, Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia.
Boustany said Obama’s “all-of-the-above” domestic energy approach ignores the “need to develop resources now for future energy production.
“The do-nothing energy plan is simply unacceptable,” Boustany said.
Landry even borrowed his favorite “drilling-equals-jobs” catchphrase Wednesday to argue that the nation must capitalize on knowing that “the cheapest form of energy out there is oil and gas.”
“All we’re asking is to allow these properties to be surveyed, looked at and made available,” Landry said.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., helped lead the opposition while pushing to maintain Obama’s drilling plan.
“We don’t want a Louisiana mess off the coast of Massachusetts, off the coast of California,” Markey said, referencing the 2010 BP oil disaster.
Markey said domestic oil production is at an 18-year high under Obama and that the reliance on foreign oil has dipped significantly.
“We have more (oil) rigs than the rest of the world combined,” he said.
Obama is doing what Republicans want by increasing domestic drilling, Markey said, but the Republicans are so anti-Obama they will oppose him no matter what.
“This is like (Boston) Red Sox fans rooting against the Red Sox just because they signed (New York Yankee) Derek Jeter,” Markey said.
Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, agreed with Markey that domestic oil production is up and that foreign dependence is down.
“But why?” Fleming said. “Because of the private sector industry out there drilling in new areas out there like North Dakota and my home state in Louisiana.”
Landrieu’s OPEN Act, the legislation is meant to build on Landrieu’s 2006 law that allowed for 37.5 percent of federal revenue on offshore drilling to go toward the states where the drilling is occurring offshore. The current law has a $500 million revenue cap though and the new bill would remove that cap.
The soonest the revenue cap could be exceeded for Louisiana would be in 2017, largely because the 2006 law only applied to new drilling leases approved prospectively.
During the income tax cut debate, Landrieu voted for the Senate plan to extend the income tax cuts only to households making $250,000 or less.
Vitter opposed the bill. He said Congress should not raise taxes on any Americans, “particularly in this horrible economy.”