Kerry, Graham Offer Different Degrees of Enthusiasm for Drilling Plan

Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:31pm

President Barack Obama’s decision to expand offshore drilling did not seem to budge the long-running talks among a bipartisan group of Senators hoping to unveil a climate change bill within the next month.

“As to the Obama Administration’s proposal for environmentally sound offshore exploration for American oil and natural gas, this is a good first step,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement. “But there is more that must be done to make this proposal meaningful and the game-changer we all want it to become.”

Whitney Smith, spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said Obama’s announcement “reaffirmed his commitment to passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation.”

Speaking about her boss’s efforts, Smith said that Kerry and others “are committed to finding acceptable compromises on onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration, conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner that protects the interests of the coastal states.”

“They’ve met with Senators who oppose drilling and those who support it, and they’ve worked for months to determine the best solutions,” Smith added.

Graham, Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) have been working for months to strike a bipartisan deal on a climate change bill they hope could reach the floor this year. White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Wednesday that Obama’s announcement was a component of energy reform but that Congress still needs to act on comprehensive legislation.

“I don’t have specific dates for you necessarily, but this is something that the president thinks we need to move forward on as quickly as possible,” Burton said, adding, “His goal is to do this as fast as he possibly can.”