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Boehner: Oil Spill Highlights Need for GOP Pro-Drilling Plan

At least they get points for consistency.

House Republican leaders are once again sounding the drumbeat for passage of their sidelined pro-drilling energy reform package, even as state and federal officials scramble to stem a massive Gulf oil spill.

“This tragedy should remind us that America needs a real, comprehensive energy plan, like Republicans’ ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday in a statement.

The GOP proposal, which was first rolled out in the summer of 2008 and has made multiple appearances since then, would, among other things, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration. Republicans were successful in enacting one aspect of their plan in 2008 — lifting the moratoriums on drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf — with the help of some Democrats.

Boehner made no specific mention of drilling in his statement, although he declares that “now is not the time for new government-mandated limits on the production of American-made energy, as such limits will only make us more dependent on foreign oil, slow the development of clean-energy alternatives, increase fuel costs, and destroy American jobs.”

The political implications of the oil spill, which was sparked by last week’s explosion on a BP exploratory rig and is estimated to be leaking at a daily rate of 5,000 barrels, are already evident when it comes to Democrats’ willingness to move forward with comprehensive energy legislation that includes drilling provisions. An Obama administration proposal to open up coastal waters for drilling would be “dead on arrival” if it were to come up in the Senate, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Friday on MSNBC. Nelson’s home state is all but certain to be hit by the oil slick on its shorelines, as are Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

Even White House officials dodged questions Monday about whether President Barack Obama may be reconsidering the inclusion of offshore drilling in his energy plan in light of the catastrophic oil spill.

Asked if the president’s support for drilling has evolved since the oil spill, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that it would be “premature” to make any policy changes before weighing the results of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s investigation into what triggered the BP rig explosion.

During the press briefing, Gibbs noted that the Gulf region is “largely unaffected” by the president’s announcement of support for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

At least one prominent Republican is already backing away from his previous support for offshore drilling: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday withdrew his support for a plan to expand oil drilling off the California coast, citing television images that show the magnitude of the Gulf disaster.

“You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster, you say to yourself, ‘Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?'” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference near Sacramento.

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