Drilling Down: Obama explores for rare natural resource: bipartisanship

By Jonathan Blakely

Mar 31, 2010 8:06am

By Rick Klein: Out of the damp Washington swamp, after our crash course in reconciliation and self-executing rules, as the sweep of health care reform arguments turn granular and maybe quieter, look what’s back in fashion. Bipartisanship is making a return. (Or, at least, it hopes to.) On energy policy, education, financial regulatory reform, even key foreign policy initiatives, the search is on again for middle ground. It’s a different kind of bipartisanship than we’ve seen earlier in the Obama presidency — leavened, perhaps, by what’s worked, and mostly by what hasn’t. The efforts are carefully calibrated, in some cases to appeal to individual lawmakers, recognizing that the GOP has made a bed for 2010 that doesn’t invite sharing. The latest — it’s drill, baby, drill, in search of that rarest natural resource called bipartisan compromise: “On Wednesday morning at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in Washington, DC, President Obama will announce that his administration will allow the a lease sale for oil and gas exploration 50 miles off of the Virginia coast — the first new sales of offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic in more than two decades,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. “The Department of Interior will also allow seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Outer Continental Shelf from Delaware all the way South to the tip of Florida, to assess the quantity and location of potential oil and gas resources.  A White House official says that the president will also approve a lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, while canceling other lease sales in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, and Chukchi and Beaufort Seas because of environmental concerns.” The effort is the product of months of negotiations with stakeholders and lawmakers — and get ready for new sounds of angst from the left. But it’s aimed at reviving climate change talks in the Senate (how long has Kerry-Lieberman-Graham been waiting in the wings?). And the aim is broader, as the White House hopes to follow the bitter partisanship of health care with something that matches issues to available coalitions. White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, on ABC’s “Top Line” Tuesday: “I haven’t given up on Republicans. I do believe that there are Republicans of good conscience who want to work together on issues, we want to continue to do that.” (Yet, on financial regulatory reform, “Our goal is to move the country forward,” Axelrod said. “We’re willing to work with anybody who’s willing to work with us to get that done. But what we can’t do is sit still in the face of great challenges because one party has decided to sit on the sidelines.”) Look what else is happening: “Several Republicans, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, are working with Democrats and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on revisions to the No Child Left Behind education law,” Politics Daily’s Jill Lawrence reports. “There is also an expectation that Congress will pass, and some Republicans will support, new regulations on financial institutions to avoid a repeat of the near-collapse of the economy in late 2008.” Taking measure of the moment: “Democrats on Capitol Hill differ as to whether — but mostly to what degree — putting health care reform on the scoreboard has given Obama more juice in Congress,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen reports. “They uniformly say that swatting Wall Street is a political no-brainer that unifies their party and splits Republicans, and many of them are eager to pass anything that can be labeled a ‘jobs’ bill to show voters that they are focused on reversing economic misfortune. Both offer the opportunity to cater to populist sentiment before the election — and to force the GOP to go along or risk public backlash.” As for drilling, it has the looks of a classic Obama first step that leaves no one satisfied — and irks some allies. “The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean,” John M. Broder reports in The New York Times. “The proposal is intended to reduce dependence on oil imports, generate revenue from the sale of offshore leases and help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.”  Also pleased? From the fact sheet of job-creation ideas Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put out after a White House jobs meeting last month: “Expand exploration of offshore areas for oil and gas development.” It’s been a while since he had a good fight on his left: “Obama’s plan offers few concessions to environmentalists, who have been strident in their opposition to more oil platforms off the nation’s shores,” the AP’s Philip Elliott reports. Timing: “Obama’s announcement will come in the run-up to the summer driving season, as gasoline prices have begun a national march toward $3 a gallon, and beyond that in California,” Jim Tankersley reports in the Los Angeles Times. “The administration is pushing expanded offshore exploration as a bargaining chip in its attempts to enact sweeping legislation to curb oil imports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  Powerful motivation: “The idea of expanding offshore drilling is taking on increased importance in the broader debate over climate and energy legislation,” Stephen Power and Ian Talley write in The Wall Street Journal. “The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) to draft legislation aimed at reducing U.S. emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to climate change. With at least several Senate Democrats expected to oppose such legislation, Mr. Obama needs Republican votes to pass it. Mr. Graham has said such a bill would have to include an expansion of offshore drilling.” A more aggressive stance internationally… and a surprisingly stark call for sanctions against Iran: “I am not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place. I’m interesting in seeing that regime in place in weeks,” the president said Tuesday alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, per ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller. Peter Baker, in The New York Times: “The American assertiveness may reflect growing confidence that the administration can persuade China to let a tough sanctions resolution through the Security Council, where it has a veto. China so far has resisted the harshest measures proposed by the Americans and Europeans, but in recent days has begun engaging in more talks.” New worries on Afghanistan, per Tom Friedman: “We have thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan and more heading there. Love it or hate it, we’re now deep in it, so you have to want our engagement there to build something that is both decent and self-sustaining — so we can get out. But I still fear that Karzai is ready to fight to the last U.S. soldier. And once we clear, hold and build Afghanistan for him, he is going to break our hearts.” New fronts in the health care battles: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning a broad effort to blunt the health overhaul by trying to shape its regulatory language and spending heavily to unseat vulnerable Democrats who voted for it,” Janet Adamy writes in The Wall Street Journal. “The campaign is the latest example of the escalating tensions between proponents of the health overhaul and big businesses, which have become more specific in their criticisms of the new law. In recent days, a handful of large companies have reported hefty charges because the law eliminates a tax deduction for firms that offer prescription-drug coverage to retirees.” Howard Fineman, turning skeptical: “His reputation as a can-do guy was purchased at a very high political cost. The first week of salesmanship by the Democrats and the president hasn’t done any good,” Fineman writes for Newsweek. “He’s dug himself a partisan hole with this big bill, and it’ll be interesting to see him try to dig his way out.” Looking back — Tom Daschle reflects on the journey, to Bloomberg’s Kristin Jensen and Edwin Chen: “Obama’s pursuit of health care reflected his desire to succeed where no other president had, as much as a determination to seize the chance to fix a broken system, according to Daschle. ‘Once committed, he felt he just couldn’t afford to lose,’ Daschle said last week.” Some DCCC offense: A new video highlight real is out Wednesday, with four minutes of Roosevelts and Truman and Kennedy, and leading Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — reading letters from Americans. In Texas — staying put: “Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, plans to announce this morning that she plans to stay in the Senate, despite a pledge to resign her seat regardless of whether she won or lost the primary for governor, a Republican source tells ABC News.” In Kentucky — 9/11 and Jeremiah Wright, all in one campaign spat (in a GOP primary): “Republican U.S. Senate candidate Trey Grayson called on his chief rival, Rand Paul, Tuesday to stop airing an ad that uses imagery of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington,” Jack Brammer reports in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The Secretary of State’s campaign also released an Internet video Tuesday that implies Paul’s views on the terrorist attacks mirror those of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial former pastor of President Barack Obama.” In Maryland — the rematch we’ve all been waiting for (and the latest former governor who wants the old job back): “Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. confirmed Tuesday that he will try to reclaim his former job as governor, hoping to benefit from a national anti-incumbent sentiment that emerged since the last presidential election and has deepened during the health care debate,” the Baltimore Sun’s Julie Bykowicz reports. In Illinois — and coming to plenty of other states: “We expect him to live up to his pledge,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly tells The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent, now that Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is hedging on whether he’s backing efforts to repeal the health care law. More Steele fallout: “Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has had no trouble attracting media coverage, but holding onto the party’s biggest donors has been more difficult,” The Daily Caller’s Gautham Nagesh and Aleksandra Kulczuga report. “Since Steele became chairman in January 2009, a growing number of prominent GOP donors has stopped contributing to the RNC, choosing instead to direct their money to outlets such as the party’s Senatorial Committee.” Mark Knoller gets the profile treatment: “Mr. Knoller’s database is the work of a self-described hoarder, filing milestones and minutiae of the American presidency,” Elizabeth Williamson writes in The Wall Street Journal. “He shares his facts freely with others in the media, the White House and his more than 22,000 followers on Twitter, where the stocky, rumpled newsman known for his booming voice is the second-most followed CBS personality after Katie Couric.” Knoller: “I’ve got an assessment of the presidency that others don’t…I’m amused by it.”
The Kicker: “My understanding is he had a half-smoke, so he was sampling the local wares.” — President Obama, praising Nicolas Sarkozy’s “discriminating palate,” after the French president visited Ben’s Chili Bowl. “A lot of commentators have said, yeah, this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts.” — President Obama, declaring a candidacy other than his own.
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