GOP reaction to White House drilling plan varies

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) praised plans to proceed with a lease sale off the coast of his state by 2012.

“At a time when gas prices are back on the rise and people need to get back to work, developing and utilizing American energy resources is desperately needed. I am encouraged that the Administration has endorsed offshore energy exploration off our coast, which will not only help put Virginians back to work, but bring needed revenue to our state,” Cantor said in a statement.

But Cantor then said the Obama administration should have proposed a more ambitious plan, noting that longstanding offshore drilling bans expired in 2008. He said the White House is “actively blocking job creation” by not going further.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a strongly critical statement. He slammed the decision to scuttle some planned lease sales off Alaska’s coast to allow further study, and the absence of Pacific Coast leasing in the proposal.

“The Obama Administration continues to defy the will of the American people who strongly supported the bipartisan decision of Congress in 2008 to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling not just off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, but off the Pacific Coast and Alaskan shores as well,” he said.

“Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ he added.

In contrast, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) – the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee – was kinder in response. 

“President Obama’s proposal is a step in the right direction. While it doesn’t go as far as the 2008 bipartisan decision by Congress to lift the ban, it’s welcome news that the president believes America should quit relying so heavily on foreign oil,” Barton said.

“However, it needs to be more than just a press release. The president now must set up a process that expedites the process from lease application to lease production,” he added.

But several western state Republicans stuck closer to Boehner’s response.

“While the Obama Administration would have you believe it’s taking a balanced approach by opening limited access to U.S. waters for offshore energy development, the reality is that today’s announcement only opens a fraction of our abundant resources located throughout the deepwater [outer continental shelf],” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who chairs the Western Caucus.

Across the Capitol, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) took a wait-and-see approach to the drilling plans.

"I appreciate the President's apparent willingness to consider offshore drilling as part of the Administration's energy policy," he said in a prepared statement. "Time will tell as to whether Obama is really ready to embrace offshore drilling or simply wanting to look like he is.

But Inhofe, like several other Republicans responding to the drilling announcement, also attacked Obama administration plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, calling it a “contradiction.”

“The President is, on the one hand, pushing forward with global warming policies to make fossil fuels more expensive, while on the other hand, he's talking about drilling for more fossil fuels offshore,” Inhofe said.

Click here to see a map that describes the Alaska offshore drilling strategy.

Click here to see a map that describes the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico drilling strategies.