By Ben Geman - 05/03/10 04:46 PM EDT
Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) is pressing his opponents in the Florida
Senate race to back a moratorium on new oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf
of Mexico, a gambit that underscores how quickly the worsening Gulf oil
spill is becoming a factor in political battles.
Meek’s Senate campaign has launched an online petition to be delivered to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist – who left the GOP to run for Senate as an independent – and GOP candidate Marco Rubio.
“Please sign our petition and join with Kendrick today in demanding Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio call for a moratorium on expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf,” the online petition states.
It notes “Kendrick Meek is the only candidate who has consistently been against expanded drilling. The disaster in the Gulf just underscores the need for a moratorium on any new offshore drilling.”
Crist has backed away from his support for new drilling, noting on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that offshore drilling “has got to be tabled for sure.”
Rubio, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” focused his remarks on the need to contain the spill, but avoided comment on whether new drilling should be put on hold.
“Order No. 1 is to get this under control. And step No. 2 is to figure out why this happened so that it will never, ever happen again,” said Rubio, the former state House Speaker.
The Obama administration in late March called on Congress to pare back drilling bans in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s shores.
Also, current Interior Department leasing plans call for further lease sales in the western and central Gulf of Mexico – which are already open for drilling – during the next several years.
President Barack Obama said last week that new leases will not go forward until additional safeguards have been examined.
Administration officials have acknowledged the Gulf spill will factor into their plans – which are in the early stages of development – to broaden offshore drilling into new regions. The plan announced in late March calls for leasing off some Atlantic coast states and wider leasing in Arctic waters.