The Obama administration announced today that it will be approving “significant oil and gas exploration off America’s coasts.” One possible reason for the administration’s policy shift may be that it is seeking Republican votes for comprehensive energy reform. In the summer of 2008, then-candidate Obama explained that he saw allowing offshore oil drilling as a compromise necessary to “get something done“:
“The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling,” Obama said in the Post interview. “And so we don’t want gridlock. We want to get something done.” The freshman Illinois senator and presidential nominee-to-be added: “If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”
During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Bush official Dan Bartlett said that the move is unlikely to get any Republican votes for an energy bill. While saying that he thinks it is a “shrewd move” that will “demonstrate…that the Democratic Party doesn’t just cater to the extreme aspects of their base,” Bartlett conceded that it will likely not win any Republican votes because “Republicans have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats“:
BARTLETT: This is a shrewd move by the White House this announcment they’re doing on energy and offshore oil drilling. … These are the things they need to demonstrate to their constituents that the Democratic Party does not just cater to the extreme aspects of their base … Now, do I think that this measure here will help grease the path for a climate change bill and bring Republicans on board? No. Republicans in the Congress have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats. So if this is more of a legislative maneuever in order to get a broader bill on climate change, unfortunately this is going to come up short.
Indeed, Republicans have thus far indicated that they are unwilling to compromise in exchange for the administration’s lifting of offshore oil drilling bans. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) immediately “dismissed the president’s plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration,” even going so far as to accuse Obama of defying “the will of the American people” because he didn’t open up even more territory for offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Chairman of the House Republican Conference and the American Energy Solutions Group Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) derided the plan as a “smokescreen” and a “feeble attempt to gain votes” for comprehensive energy legislation.
Matt Yglesias writes, “I don’t understand this at all. Increased coastal drilling would be a small price to pay in exchange for actual congressional votes for an overall energy package that shifts us to a low-carbon economy over time. But any price is too high a price to pay in exchange for nothing at all. This isn’t the greatest environmental crime in human history, but it sure does seem like poor legislative strategy.”
,Sarah Palin responds with a pair of tweets. In the first, she writes, “Drill, baby, drill.” In the second, she praises Boehner’s response and admonishes Obama for trying to win over conservative votes for an energy overhaul:
,Newt Gingrich told the St. Petersburg Times that while he likes the idea of drilling, he thinks Obama is doing it too late. “If he’s going to announce he’s for drilling, he should announce that we’re drilling now. I don’t think the people want a party of manana,” Gingrich said.