House approves two bills to block Trump drilling

The House on Wednesday approved two bills that offer sweeping protections to the nation’s coastlines, permanently blocking offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and part of the Gulf of Mexico.

Another vote on legislation to block drilling in the Atlantic is set for Thursday as House Democrats seek to advance their environmental agenda. 

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“We’re striking back this week against the Trump administration and their agenda to drill everywhere, every time, with no exception," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said ahead of Wednesday's votes.

There is minimal drilling taking place in the areas protected by the bills, but Democrats want to block off areas the Trump administration is eager to tap as part of its energy dominance strategy. That plan has been put on hold as the administration fights to drill in parts of the Arctic previously protected by former President Obama. 

The White House on Monday announced that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE would veto the bills.

“These bills would undermine the Administration’s commitment to a prosperous American economy supported by the responsible use of the Nation’s abundant natural resources,” the White House wrote in a statement.

H.R. 1941, the bill to block drilling along the East and West coasts, passed with 238 votes. H.R. 205, the bill that would block drilling along Florida’s coast in the Gulf of Mexico, passed with 248 votes.

“When you have offshore structures, rigs or otherwise exposed to a marine and corrosive environment, something is going to break down and something is going to spill,” said Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution MORE (D-S.C.), a freshman who campaigned on opposition to offshore drilling and sponsored the bill to ban drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

“If we have if we're learning anything from the past, it's that when you drill, you spill. No one should be comfortable exposing our shorelines to that risk,” he said.

The bills enjoyed broad support among Democrats but each also secured Republican co-sponsors. Florida Republicans were particularly eager to sign on to the bill to protect their coastline, an effort led by Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis Rooney2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week NY Times's Haberman: Trump 'surprised' Iranian strike wasn't 'more of a unifying event' MORE (R-Fla.), alongside nine other conservatives.

Offshore drilling is deeply unpopular in Florida, where nearly 70 percent of voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling

Rooney repeatedly thanked Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSekulow indicates White House not interested in motion to dismiss impeachment articles Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying Key House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week MORE (D-Calif.) for helping to bring the bill to the floor and said he hoped it would garner votes from other Republicans.

“I think this is an important opportunity for the Republican Party to show young people, soccer moms like George Bush's old coalition, university people that the Republican Party can do other things than just scream about guns,” Rooney told reporters. 

But many other Republicans opposed the effort to block offshore drilling, and GOP leaders earlier on Wednesday introduced their own alternative bill they labeled as an “all-of-the-above” energy approach. 

Dubbed the American Energy First Act, the bill would limit the executive branch’s ability to place unilateral moratoriums on drilling on public lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.

During the debate on the offshore drilling bans, many Republicans argued blocking such activity would hurt America’s energy independence and stymie job creation from the oil and gas industry.

An amendment from Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (R-Ariz.) attempted to rename one of the bills the "Russian Energy Reliance and U.S. Poverty Act."

"The United States is home to some of the richest energy sources in the world. Rather than relying on hostile regimes who hate America, we should be producing energy right here in our backyard. Today’s Left wants to lock up millions of acres of land and water from energy exploration which will put millions of Americans out of work, send energy prices skyrocketing and harm our national security," Gosar said during the debate.

The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday is unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate, something sponsors of the bills acknowledged.

“Sen. Scott and Sen. Rubio are going to have to stand up for our state,” said Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Pelosi warns of 'existential' climate threat, vows bold action Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows to push for Paris climate goals | Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry at Energy | EPA under attack from all sides over ethanol rule MORE (D-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the bill barring drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. “They can do it. A senator has a lot of power standing on their own to do it. And that's what it's going to take to stand up to the Trump administration and all the damage that they're doing.”

Updated at 5:45 p.m.