Obama moves back to middle with drilling plan
By Ben Pershing
After dispensing with a health-reform bill that mostly pleased liberals and alienated nearly all conservatives, President Obama heads back to the ideological middle Wednesday with a dramatic -- and controversial -- new plan for domestic oil exploration.
"The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday," the New York Times reports, adding: "The proposal -- a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations -- would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean. Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border." The Associated Press notes that "Obama was set to announce the new drilling policy Wednesday at Andrews air base in Maryland. White House officials pitched the changes as ways to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs -- both politically popular ideas -- but the president's decisions also could help secure support for a climate change bill languishing in Congress."
The Los Angeles Times writes that "the plan would: Eventually open two-thirds of the eastern Gulf's oil and gas resources for drilling; Proceed with drilling off Virginia, provided the project clears environmental and military reviews; Study the viability of drilling off the mid- and southern Atlantic coasts; Study the viability of drilling in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas -- areas hotly defended by environmentalists -- but issue no new drilling leases in either sea before 2013. The eastern Gulf of Mexico leases hinge on Congress lifting a moratorium on drilling there. Even if that happens, administration officials said, Obama's plan included no drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coastline." The Washington Post says "The administration's decision to open up large swaths of the Outer Continental Shelf, even as it keeps some key preserves off-limits, is likely to anger environmentalists and several key lawmakers who had pressed Obama to keep the moratorium in place. But oil and gas companies are sure to welcome the proposal. The drilling policy represents the White House's latest attempt to straddle a middle ground on climate and energy policy, an effort that has already seen steps to boost domestic energy production and demands for stricter limits on greenhouse-gas emissions."
The Wall Street Journal observes, "Expanding drilling was a rallying cry for Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Obama has said he is open to expanding offshore drilling on certain conditions. But his Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, extended by 180 days the deadline for public comment on a proposal issued under the Bush administration that would allow energy companies to drill for oil and natural gas in half a dozen areas off U.S. shores that had previously been off limits. Mr. Salazar has spent much of the past year weighing public comments on the proposal, as well as a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that found the Bush administration failed to conduct required environmental analyses of the impact of offshore drilling. Environmental groups and many Democrats from coastal states have opposed expanded offshore drilling, citing the environmental risks associated with spills." Grist's Jonathan Hiskes writes: "This is ... stunning. Baffling. With the new policy Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo. I'm holding out hope that things appear worse than they are. Because the key isn't how much offshore drilling is allowed. The crucial issue is whether oil and gas companies decide it's worth their money to go out, find, and retreive the stuff."
Meanwhile, the fight over health reform continues even after the measure is done. The Wall Street Journal reports: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning a broad effort to blunt the health overhaul by trying to shape its regulatory language and spending heavily to unseat vulnerable Democrats who voted for it. The campaign is the latest example of the escalating tensions between proponents of the health overhaul and big businesses, which have become more specific in their criticisms of the new law. In recent days, a handful of large companies have reported hefty charges because the law eliminates a tax deduction for firms that offer prescription-drug coverage to retirees. In a letter to board members Monday, chamber president and chief executive Thomas J. Donohue said the business lobby will seek changes to regulations to 'minimize the potentially harmful impacts of this bill on our members and the country.' ... Mr. Donohue also said the group planned to spend $50 million this summer and fall to ensure that voters in pivotal House and Senate races know where lawmakers stand on health and other big issues. The chamber spent $36.4 million in the 2008 election." Industry has already given ground on one issue. The New York Times says, "Under pressure from the White House, health insurance companies said Tuesday that they would comply with rules to be issued soon by the Obama administration requiring them to cover children with pre-existing medical problems. 'Health plans recognize the significant hardship that a family faces when they are unable to obtain coverage for a child with a pre-existing condition,' said Karen M. Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. Accordingly, she said, 'we await and will fully comply with' the rules. Ms. Ignagni made the commitment in a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, who had said she feared that some insurers might exploit a possible ambiguity in the new health care law to deny coverage to some sick children."
Bloomberg offers a recap of the path to passage of health reform, much of it focused on the recollections of Tom Daschle. AP looks at the repeal movement: "Top Republicans are increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that's roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama's new health care law. It's fine to criticize the health law and the way Democrats pushed it through Congress without a single GOP vote, these party leaders say. But focusing on its outright repeal carries two big risks. Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California." Atul Gawande wonders what's next: "The health-reform bill that President Obama signed into law last week--the unmemorably named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--could prove as momentous as Medicare. Yet, because most of its provisions phase in more slowly than Medicare did, they are even more vulnerable to attack. ... That's the one truly scary thing about health reform: far from being a government takeover, it counts on local communities and clinicians for success. We are the ones to determine whether costs are controlled and health care improves--which is to say, whether reform survives and resistance is defeated. The voting is over, and the country has many other issues that clamor for attention. But, as L.B.J. would have recognized, the battle for health-care reform has only begun."
Politico says "[t]he president's push to turn health care reform into a catalyst for the rest of his agenda is getting mixed early reviews on Capitol Hill, where Democratic leaders' desire to take advantage of healthy majorities before the November elections is running face-first into lawmakers' survival instincts. White House aides told POLITICO earlier this week that an emboldened Barack Obama plans to parlay his win on health care into a crack down on Wall Street excesses, a rewrite of education and campaign finance laws and possibly a climate change bill -- all before the fall's midterms. But aides and members, Republicans and Democrats alike, say that a Wall Street crackdown was coming -- and progress on climate change, immigration and other contentious measures probably wasn't -- no matter what had happened with the health care bill." Jonathan Turley looks at the constitutionality of the individual mandate: "Though strong arguments can be made for health care reform and the individual mandate, these are matters that should not be decided by mere fiat of Congress but rather by the courts. Federalism was already on life support before the individual mandate. Make no mistake about it, this plan might provide a bill of good health for the public, but it could amount to a "do not resuscitate" order for federalism."
The last piece of health reform became law Tuesday, along with Obama's student loan overhaul. The Chicago Tribune writes, "President Obama signed into law the last piece of his mammoth plan to overhaul healthcare Tuesday, and achieved another dramatic and far-reaching change with the very same pen stroke -- revamping the way most Americas help pay for a college education. The healthcare provisions and changes to the loan program for college students were sandwiched into a single piece of legislation -- the budget reconciliation bill approved last week by the House and Senate. And while the overhaul to the healthcare system is historic, the changes in the student loan program -- though smaller -- are also drastic."The New York Times notes that "In signing the bill, Mr. Obama put the final touches on his health care program but used the occasion to highlight the education provisions. 'That's two major victories in one week,' he told students and guests at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where Jill Biden teaches English. While he praised the health care overhaul, the president said, 'what's gotten overlooked amid all the hoopla, all the drama of last week, is what's happened with education.'" Fox News reports that "Powerhouse student loan provider Sallie Mae says layoffs are imminent as a result of President Obama's new student loan overhaul. 'This legislation will force Sallie Mae to reduce our 8,600-person workforce by 2,500,' Conwey Casillas, Vice President of Sallie Mae Public Affairs, said in a statement to Fox News."
March 31, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
Save & Share: Previous: Obama, Sarkozy forge a new bond: the half-smoke
Next: LL Cool J: Fox News 'misrepresenting' Sarah Palin's new show
Posted by: melchior1 | April 1, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: billnbillieskid | March 31, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: parkbench | March 31, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: treedbrent | March 31, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: treedbrent | March 31, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: treedbrent | March 31, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JourneyHomeBurke | March 31, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: omaarsblade | March 31, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vwcat | March 31, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CaPatriot | March 31, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: patriotgmalou | March 31, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: NeoConVeteran | March 31, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nikejordans1 | March 31, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: newagent99 | March 31, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: scrivener50 | March 31, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.