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 TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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 CunninghamDemocrat says he expects to oppose articles of impeachment against Trump Conservative group unveils million ad campaign against Trump impeachment Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment 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 RooneyAmash says he will vote in favor of articles of impeachment Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving How House Republicans have stayed unified on impeachment 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 PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing 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 GosarWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Sen. John Kennedy: Americans 'deserve some answers' on Epstein's death Gosar leaves message in tweets: 'Epstein didn't kill himself' 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.