This vote was on a Republican amendment to open up new parts of the U.S. coastline to offshore oil drilling.
With gas prices on the rise, many Republicans argued that increasing domestic production of oil could help bring relief to consumers. They blamed the Obama Administration for restricting domestic production by placing limits on offshore oil drilling. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) offered an amendment that would have opened up vast new areas off the U.S. shore to energy exploration.
“One major thing we can do to affect the price at the pump in the right direction – which would be to lower it – is to say yes instead of no to developing more of our domestic energy,” Sen. Vitter said. “Unfortunately, in the last several years, under President Obama, we have been moving in the opposite direction. We have been moving away from that production.”
Opponents of Sen. Vitter’s amendment argued that it would fatten the wallets of major oil companies, not the American consumers who were struggling to pay high gas prices. They noted that domestic supply had actually increased, not decreased; in fact, the number of oil rigs in operation in the United States had increased dramatically since President Obama took office. They also argued that Sen. Vitter’s amendment would endanger other sectors of the economy by opening new regions of the U.S. coast to drilling without addressing environmental concerns.
“I want more oil. I want it to stay in America. But I don't want to endanger entire economies by saying to our friends in the States: ‘Uncle Sam says to forget about their fishing industry, forget about their tourist industry, forget about all the restaurants and the hotels and everybody else who depends on it,’” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said.
Sen. Vitter’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 43-55. Voting “yea” were 40 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 50 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 5 Republicans. As a result, the Senate killed the effort to open large new areas of the U.S. coastline to oil exploration.