House GOP Leaders Plan Vote on Senate Bill Next Week

House GOP leaders plan to vote next week on Senate-passed offshore drilling legislation, congressional aides said today.

"It will be on the schedule," a Republican leadership aide said.

The Senate passed legislation in August that would open 8.3 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to new leasing and share production revenues with gulf states.

Next week's planned vote shows that House leaders have abandoned hopes of expanding leasing outside the Gulf of Mexico this year in favor of seeking an incremental increase.

A broader competing bill the House passed in June would have relaxed leasing bans that now cover most coastal areas outside the gulf -- legislation that proved too expansive to win serious consideration in the Senate.

House-Senate talks aimed at modestly expanding the Senate plan failed, leaving House lawmakers the option of either voting on the Senate plan or abandoning the issue in the 109th Congress.

Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.), a chief advocate of the House bill, issued a statement this morning calling the Senate bill, S. 3711, a good first step. "If nothing else ... the Senate bill does establish a worthwhile precedent upon which we will continue to improve next Congress, while at the same time freeing up a modest amount of natural gas," he said.

"So, while I don't believe S. 3711 represents the answer to our country's worsening supply situation and resulting record-breaking prices for consumers and industrial users, I do believe it's another step toward that ultimate and very important national goal," Peterson added.

It was not clear at press time how the issue would be addressed procedurally. Sources tracking the issue say it could be under "suspension," which requires a two-thirds vote.

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