Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu said she will block Jack Lew’s confirmation to lead the White House budget office until the administration lifts or “significantly” modifies its moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ban is having a “devastating impact on the economy of the Gulf Coast,” she wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “I have done everything within my power to get this administration’s attention. But the policy remains in effect and Louisiana’s economy continues to suffer.”
Lew’s nomination was approved today on a 22-1 vote by the Senate Budget Committee, which would clear the way for a vote by the full chamber. The Senate gives individual lawmakers power to hold up nominations, which they sometimes use to seek concessions from the executive branch on unrelated issues.
President Barack Obama imposed the drilling suspension following the BP Plc oil spill, the worst in U.S. history, caused by an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast.
Landrieu complained at a Senate committee meeting last week that the ban continues even though airline service resumed four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the government didn’t shut down mining after the fatal April 5 explosion at the Massey Energy Co. mine in West Virginia.
A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget urged Landrieu to allow Lew’s nomination to proceed.
“Jack Lew has received overwhelming, bipartisan support from senators across the spectrum,” said Kenneth Baer. “Especially during this critical time in our economy and in our fiscal situation, the Senate should move quickly to vote on his confirmation before it recesses at the end of the month.”
Lew would replace Peter Orszag, who stepped down in July. Jeffrey Zients, OMB’s deputy director, is serving as acting director until Lew is confirmed.