Last month, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced that she would be blocking “the nomination of Office of Management and Budget [OMB] director Jack Lew until the Obama administration lifts its deepwater drilling moratorium,” singlehandedly hobbling the OMB.
Today, the Obama administration announced that it will be ending its deepwater drilling moratorium. “The policy position that we are articulating today is that we are open for business,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters at a news conference. Yet Landrieu said in a statement today that she still refuses to lift her hold on Lew’s nomination, and will continue to “evaluate if today’s lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work” and “whether or not drilling activity in both shallow and deep water is resuming” over the next month before making a decision:
Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana today applauded the Obama administration for lifting the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling but said she will continue to block the nomination of Jack Lew to head the Office of Management & Budget.
“I am not going to release my hold on Jack Lew,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Instead I will take this time to look closely at how [the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] is handling the issuing of permits and whether or not drilling activity in both shallow and deep water is resuming.” Landrieu said she will use the remaining month before Congress convenes on November 15 for the lame-duck session to “evaluate if today’s lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work.”
In her statement, Landrieu adds that she wants there to be “an action plan to get the entire industry in the Gulf of Mexico back to work. This means that the administration must continue to accelerate the granting of permits in shallow and deep water, and provide greater certainty about the rules and regulations industry must meet. I strongly believe that we can do this safely and swiftly.”
Although Landrieu argued that the drilling moratorium “could cost more jobs than the spill itself,” the actual economic impact of restoring the rule of law to offshore drilling has been minimal, while the economic, environmental, and psychological impacts of the oil disaster continue to grow.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs castigated Landrieu for “playing politics” with Lew’s nomination:
“We hope that, as we work through the normal course of a policy that ensures that oil drilling is done in a safe way, certainly that Senator Landrieu would judge Jack Lew on the merits of being a budget director, not of playing politics and getting issues that are ancillary to what he does involved in that equation,” said Gibbs, reiterating his claim last month that Landrieu’s hold is “outrageous.”
“Jack didn’t have anything to do with issuing the moratorium, doesn’t currently have anything to do with the moratorium. He passed two Senate committees with more than 40 votes and only one dissenting vote. And obviously a budget director in a time of economic concern and concern about our long-term fiscal picture is somebody that you need at work,” Gibbs said.