WASHINGTON – Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in a months-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., told reporters Tuesday that a provision continuing the moratorium will be dropped this year from a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Congress recesses for the election.
Democrats had clung to the hope of only a partial repeal of the drilling moratorium, but the White House had promised a veto, Obey said.
The House is expected to act on the spending bill today. The Senate is likely to go along with the House.
“The White House has made it clear they will not accept anything with a drilling moratorium, and Democrats know we cannot afford to shut down the government over this,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
While the House would lift the long-standing drilling moratoriums for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, a drilling ban in waters within 125 miles of Florida’s western coast would remain in force under a law passed by Congress in 2006.