Vitter lifts hold on key Interior nominee

“I said I would lift it when we got to 15 permits,” Vitter said Wednesday in a statement. “We finally reached that mark today, and I'm lifting my hold.”

But Vitter stressed that there is more work to be done to encourage expanded production in the Gulf.

“But let me be clear: we have a lot farther to go. This administration has been forced to issue permits but is doing so at an anemic pace — 40 percent of pre-BP oil spill levels, and only two new exploration plans have been approved. We must do better by American energy consumers and workers,” he said.

“I will continue to use every tool available — absolutely every tool — to put Americans back to work in the Gulf.”

Vitter came under fire from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last month for threatening to block a bill to raise Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's salary to a level comparable with other Cabinet officials until the Interior Department ramped up the pace of deepwater drilling permit approvals.

Salazar called the move "attempted coercion."