This was a vote on a motion to recommit that would have prohibited oil and gas companies from receiving new oil drilling leases if they had been ordered to pay civil or criminal penalties as a result of an oil spill, and had not yet paid the required fines. A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. This motion to recommit was offered to legislation requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve or deny offshore oil drilling leases within 30 days of receiving an application.
Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Obama administration imposed an offshore drilling moratorium. The administration lifted that moratorium, however, in May 2010. Despite lifting the moratorium, however, Republicans argued that the administration had been too slow in approving leases for drilling, which in turn had contributed to high gasoline prices. The Obama administration (and many congressional Democrats) countered that it was seeking to improve drilling safety in order to prevent another oil spill disaster.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) urged support for this motion to recommit: “…This simple motion to recommit ensures that oil companies clean up their mess from their oil spills prior to receiving a new permit under the guidelines of this bill….Although we may disagree on the underlying bill, we surely can agree that it is necessary to protect taxpayers who would otherwise have to foot the bill for cleaning up oil companies' oil spills. It's also necessary to protect the individuals whose lives have been directly affected by those spills. To illustrate how important this final amendment is look no further than last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf's fisheries were worth $5.5 billion annually prior to the spill. Shouldn't we require BP to pay those economic damages before it receives another permit to drill again?”
Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) opposed the motion to recommit: “…My Democrat colleagues are trying to distract us from the central issue, which is jobs. We're trying to put people back to work, but instead of putting people back to work, we're having to deal with procedural gamesmanship. The American people are tired of games. They want results….Let's put our differences aside. Let's put America back to work. Let's crank up those steel mills in Pennsylvania. Let's tell the boys in Illinois that we need those Caterpillar engines. Let's tell the Texans, the Louisianans, the Mississippians, the ones in Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, that jobs are coming back to the gulf. Let's fuel our plants with American energy and American oil. No more shall we beg those who hate us for their oil. America is on her way back, and it starts in the Gulf of Mexico. Let's put the gulf back to work so we can put America back to work.”
The House rejected this motion to recommit by a vote of 186-239. Voting “yea” were 185 Democrats and 1 Republican. 235 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected a motion to recommit that would have prohibited oil and gas companies from receiving new oil drilling leases if they had been ordered to pay civil or criminal penalties as a result of an oil spill, and had not yet paid the required fines.