CNN, Ted Barrett and Alan Silverleib
The Senate rejected a Republican measure Wednesday to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters, signaling a continued partisan stalemate over energy policy and, more specifically, how to respond to rising gas prices.
The bill was defeated in a 42-57 vote. Sixty votes were required for passage.
On Tuesday, the Senate rejected a Democratic measure to strip major oil companies of about $20 billion in tax subsidies over the next 10 years and use the savings to pay down the federal deficit.
Among other things, the GOP bill would have required the Interior Department to complete a number of offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Virginia and Alaska. It also would have extended lease terms by one year for Gulf contracts suspended by the drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration.
The GOP bill would have established a 30-day review period for drilling permit applications, and allowed for default approval if an application wasn't rejected within 60 days.
The Interior Department would have been required to provide a rationale for rejecting a permit application.
"At a time of near-record gas prices, this is a modest approach, a good first step that takes everyone's concerns into account so that we can actually achieve a practical result," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Top Democrats argued that the GOP plan would do little to ease the country's long-term energy crisis.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group, called the bill a "misguided attempt to expand drilling and weaken safety and environmental oversight."
Some senators from oil-producing states argued the bill didn't go far enough. Republican Vitter and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, claimed it would actually "slow down the permitting process instead of streamlining and accelerating it."