Republican Moderates Warn Against Broader Leasing Plan

House Republican moderates told their leadership last week that any offshore oil and gas legislation considered in the lame-duck session should not go beyond the limited Senate-passed bill.

A Nov. 15 letter to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) from 18 lawmakers said continuing to promote expansive House-passed drilling legislation would "signal that we have not gotten the message of Election Day."

Signers of the letter include Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.), Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Jim Leach (Iowa), Charles Bass (N.H.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Nancy Johnson (Conn.), Mike Castle (Del.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).

"The American people made clear on Election Day that it wants Congress to take pragmatic, targeted approaches to solving problems rather than engaging in ideological sparring," the letter states. Democrats will control both chambers of Congress next year.

The Senate's bill would expand Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leasing by 8.3 million acres. A competing House-passed bill goes much further, relaxing leasing bans that cover most coastal areas. Anything resembling the broad House bill is believed dead.

Negotiations before the elections centered on efforts to potentially include some East Coast leasing in a compromise package. With the Democrats set to control Congress next year, manufacturers and other industries that rely on natural gas are pressuring House leaders to accept the Senate bill. House GOP leadership has not said whether they plan to try and pass the Senate bill.

All the lawmakers on the letter opposed the House bill that passed last summer. Several members on the letter will not be back next year -- Boehlert is retiring, while Johnson, Bass, Leach, Sue Kelly (N.Y.), and Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.) were defeated.

The letter includes an addendum that states: "This letter is not intended to suggest that all the signers would vote for the Senate bill, but rather that, if an OCS bill is brought to the floor, it should be the unamended Senate bill. Several Members who voted against H.R. 4761 did not sign this letter because they did want to say even that much about the Senate bill."

Copyright 2006 Greenwire. All Rights Reserved. Visit Greenwire for a free trial.

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