This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that would have prohibited oil companies from receiving offshore oil drilling permits that had not been approved by the Secretary of the Interior if the Interior Department lacked the staff and budget needed to review all applications for such permits.
Specifically, the underlying bill required the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application. If the secretary failed to act on a permit within 60 days, the bill provided that the permit would be “deemed approved.” Thus, the bill effectively allowed drilling permits to be issued without the Interior Secretary’s approval. Polis’ amendment would have eliminated that provision from the bill if the Interior Department lacked the staff and budget needed to review all oil drilling permits.
Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Obama administration imposed an offshore drilling moratorium. The administration lifted that moratorium, however, in May 2010. Despite lifting the moratorium, however, Republicans argued that the administration had been too slow in approving leases for drilling, and contributed to high gasoline prices. The Obama administration (and many congressional Democrats) countered that it was seeking to improve drilling safety in order to prevent another oil spill disaster.
Polis urged support for his amendment: “If the Department isn't going to be given enough resources and expertise to do the job right and on time, the Department shouldn't be forced to do the job too fast. We should be working to make government more efficient and more effective. My amendment addresses the root of this issue by lifting the arbitrary timeline requirements if the Department isn't given the necessary resources it needs to properly process applications expeditiously.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) opposed the amendment: “The purpose of H.R. 1229 [the underlying bill] is to get residents of the gulf back to work in producing offshore energy. It is not only good for them; it is good for the entire country. This amendment, whether intended or not, would allow the administration to continue to impose a de facto moratorium that would delay American energy production and keep thousands of people out of work. The residents of the gulf are simply in a holding pattern, waiting for their jobs to come back. Some of them are even seeing their jobs outsourced to other countries as rigs leave the Gulf of Mexico, bound for other parts of the world…..This amendment would delay American energy production. For that reason, I oppose it.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 174-254. Voting “yea” were 173 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 1 Republican. 236 Republicans and 18 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited oil companies from receiving offshore oil drilling permits that had not been approved by the Secretary of the Interior if the Interior Department lacked the staff and budget needed to review all applications for such permits.