This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have required oil companies seeking new leases for oil and gas drilling to renegotiate previous leases on which they paid no royalties. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to auction leases for oil and gas drilling in the most oil-rich regions of the Outer Continental Shelf (specifically, those areas with more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil or 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas).
Markey urged support for his amendment: “…What my amendment says is that they can't apply for any more leases on taxpayers' land unless they're willing to renegotiate the mistaken leases that were given to them that, by the way, will allow them to escape having to pay $53 billion in taxes, in royalties. That's another word for taxes, `royalties.' When you're talking about oil, `royalties' is the word we use to describe taxes. This blank check to the oil industry is absolutely undeserved. The Republican approach to offshore oil royalty policy is to treat the Big Oil companies like royalty and to treat the consumers and taxpayers like peasants. They're just going to give away all these breaks to the oil industry. You know, Prince William and Kate Middleton just left on their honeymoon. Their royalty honeymoon is just beginning. But for the oil companies who are drilling for free on public land, they have a royalty honeymoon that has been going on for way too long, and today, we're going to give the members of the House a chance to end the honeymoon on the royalties that the oil industry has to pay.”
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) opposed the amendment, and pointed out that this amendment had been defeated when it was offered to past oil-related bills: “It's ironic to me, this House has debated and voted on this amendment over the years. They've defeated it by a bipartisan vote. Just like a bad penny, it keeps showing up and the Big Oil is all bad. All I know, the American public is being taxed every year, $1,100 every year by this administration's high gas prices. Let's review the facts. The Deepwater Royalty Relief Act [which provided for royalty-free oil drilling leases] leases were issued by, oh, boy, Bill Clinton and [former Interior Secretary] Bruce Babbitt in 1996 and 2000. Oh, my good Lord, it was the Republicans that did all this. They're [the Clinton administration] the ones that issued these leases…If this amendment passes, those holding such leases will be required to renegotiate the lease terms with DOI [Department of Interior]…Bill Clinton would turn over--no, he's not in his grave, so I can't say that….forcing companies to renegotiate the leases would be a violation of contract law and would be challenged in court.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 189-238. Voting “yea” were 175 Democrats and 14 Republicans. 223 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required oil companies seeking new leases for oil and gas drilling to renegotiate previous leases on which they paid no royalties.