This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be 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). If passed, this particular procedural motion--known as the “previous question"--effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
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, which in turn had contributed to high gasoline prices.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “In my congressional district in western New York, my constituents, my family, my wife and I are routinely forced to pay in excess of $4 per gallon for gasoline for automobiles. We need to develop policies that will lessen our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, create stability in the financial markets, and provide relief to our constituents….Drilling for oil and natural gas can be done safely and responsibly. There have been millions of wells drilled in the United States. There is a strong record of sound environmental practices. Total petroleum industry spillage has decreased consistently over the last 40 years.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) opposed the resolution and the underlying bill: “Although Republicans continue to frame these efforts as a cure for rising gas prices and a way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, the truth is that oil prices are set on a world market. It's simply not possible for us to drill our way out of these problems….I want to remind my colleagues that energy companies are sitting on thousands of drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, and they're not producing anything. And…no drilling moratorium currently exists. Since October 2010, when the drilling moratorium was lifted, 39 shallow water and 10 deepwater permits have been granted, roughly the same average rate even before the BP oil spill….while H.R. 1231 [the underlying bill] may make for a good sound bite, this is not a serious solution to bringing down high gas prices. I urge my colleagues to oppose this rule and to oppose H.R. 1231.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 241-179. All 235 Republicans present and 6 Democrats voted “yea.” 179 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be 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.