During debate on the rule, Republicans said the two bills aim to restart the granting of permits to drillers in the Gulf and holding offshore lease sales, processes the GOP says have stalled since the Deepwater Horizon spill. Republicans say the Obama administration has maintained a de facto moratorium on these activities even though the moratorium was officially lifted in October.

"Now, what these bills do is simply reverse the job-killing delays that have been taking place," Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopPuerto Rico fiscal plan cuts one-third of government to save economy More than 100 groups call on Congress to oppose weakening national park protections Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP MORE (R-Utah) said. Bishop also said the bills would codify safety practices for the first time, and said more generally that increased exploration would ultimately help fight off higher gas prices.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and several other Democrats argued that Republicans should instead be focusing on tackling oil companies, which are making record profits as oil and gas prices rise. Pelosi said oil companies get $30 billion in tax breaks, less than the profits of the top five oil companies in the first quarter of this year.

"Why are we, the taxpayers, subsidizing the drilling of oil when they are making huge profits doing it in the free market?" Pelosi asked.