Senior Republicans distance themselves from 'drill, baby, drill'

Two senior Republicans on Tuesday distanced themselves from the controversial "drill, baby, drill" phrase first used by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and repeated prominently by 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Speaking in the wake of a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that might have as many political repercussions as environmental ones, GOP Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona and Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsDems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting Perdue vows to be chief salesman for US agriculture abroad GOP senator apologizes for mammogram joke MORE of Kansas both said Senate Republicans never endorsed the phrase. And Kyl specifically avoided referring to Steele by name.

"That was not a Senate Republican phrase," Kyl said. "I think there was a candidate that used that. I think our phrase was 'drill here, drill now,' meaning here in the United States and as quickly as oil and gas leases are going."

Roberts said Republicans were always uneasy with the catchphrase.

"I don't know about the slogan. The slogan was what, two, three years ago and basically we had a lot of opposition to it anyway."

Steele is believed to have used the phrase first in his address at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota, where the delegates took to chanting it. Conservative blogger Erik Rush also used it around the same time, and Palin employed it that October in an exchange with then-vice presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Biden: I regret not being president Biden: 'McCain is right: Need select committee' for Russia MORE.

"The chant is 'drill, baby, drill,'" Palin told Biden. "And that's what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into."