Vilsack: McCain an ‘ardent supporter’ of oil companies

A top surrogate for Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE (D-Ill.) attacked GOP rival John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE on Tuesday for what he said were the Arizona senator’s close ties to the oil industry.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE (D) said Tuesday afternoon that McCain is the “most ardent supporter” of oil companies, and accused the Arizona Republican of putting the interests of those companies ahead of Americans’ interests.

“The reality is that Sen. McCain can visit oil rigs and do photo ops all he wants, but it’s pretty clear that he’s literally over the barrel when it comes to the oil industry,” Vilsack said.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign has stepped up its attacks on McCain in recent days after coming under criticism from some Democrats for not pushing back hard enough against McCain.

Vilsack’s remarks were intended to offset McCain’s appearance Tuesday on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, where he criticized Obama for opposing expansions in offshore drilling.

“Sen. Obama opposes new drilling,” McCain said in prepared remarks. “He's wrong, and the American people know it.”

Republicans in the House for a third week are giving floor speeches during the congressional recess to call for a vote on legislation authorizing offshore drilling, a position opposed by environmental groups.

McCain said that new offshore drilling is an essential part in solving high energy prices along with spurring development of clean and renewable energy sources.

Vilsack, however, said McCain had “turned his back” on renewable energy, and emphasized that Obama would increase investments in such energy, while rescinding tax breaks for oil companies.

Vilsack offered praise for a compromise on energy put forward by a bipartisan group of 10 senators. That plan would allow for the possibility of offshore drilling, but also would roll back some tax breaks enjoyed by oil companies and offer tax credits for renewable energy.

“While Sen. Obama hasn’t specifically talked about the details of the Gang of 10 compromise, he appreciates the approach,” Vilsack said, adding that Obama is “open” to the compromise and the approach.

Vilsack was much more hesitant to praise a compromise package put forth by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That plan would allow for expanded offshore drilling, but could also include required releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a renewable electricity standard.

The latter items have been condemned as “poison pills” by House Republicans.

Vilsack said Obama would prefer oil companies to drill on existing land before allowing more offshore drilling. “I think Speaker Pelosi and the entire country understand where Sen. Obama is on this,” he said.

In response to the comments, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Stewart Iverson noted that “even though Barack Obama was Tom Vilsack’s third choice for president, I’m not surprised they agree that the solution to our energy independence is raising taxes.”

“More taxes were Vilsack’s solution to everything while governor of Iowa, and it looks like this will be true of an Obama presidency,” Iverson added. “The American people agree with John McCain that securing our energy needs must start with increasing our domestic supply while we continue to invest in a broad spectrum of alternative and renewable technologies.”