White House: Drilling move shouldn't 'come as a surprise'

Despite cries from environmental allies, a White House spokesman said Wednesday that President Barack Obama is not breaking any campaign promises on offshore drilling.

White House spokesman Bill Burton dismissed statements President Barack Obama made during the campaign that the GOP rallying cry of "Drill, baby, drill" amounted to an insignificant energy policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Instead, Burton said, Obama was merely saying at the time that drilling had to be one component of a larger plan.

"None of this should come as a surprise to anybody," Burton said.

Burton joked that the Republican slogan is more catchy than Obama's plan of limited expansion of off-shore drilling -- which the GOP says does not go far enough -- when he said that "drill where it's responsible" does not "fit on a t-shirt quite as well."

The White House stopped far short of setting any deadlines for when it would like to see Congress address the drilling proposal except to say that Obama's "goal is to do this as fast as he can."

Environmental groups, traditionally allied with Democrats, were appalled by Wednesday's announcement, but Burton insisted that the administration sees room for bipartisan support even as he said that no consideration was given to the politics of the announcement.

"He didn't go into this looking at what the political coalition was going to be in getting this passed," Burton said. He added: "It does look like there's some support on both sides of the aisle."

Burton pointed specifically to cautious statements of support from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office, noting the contrast between the early GOP reaction to this proposal and early and consistent opposition to Obama's healthcare proposal.

"I think even lukewarm statements are a step in the right direction," Burton said.

While some Republicans might be warm to Obama's proposal, a number of Democrats will likely have trouble getting on board with the president's plan.

Burton said that the Democratic leadership and other lawmakers "got a heads up," and he said he "assumed" the White House had taken the temperature of its allies on Capitol Hill.