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Landrieu Maintains Hold on Lew Despite End of Drilling Ban

Updated: 3:28 p.m.

Both Louisiana Senators applauded the Obama administration’s decision Tuesday to lift a moratorium on deep-water oil and gas drilling, but Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said the announcement was not enough to persuade her to abandon her hold on the nominee to run the White House budget office.

Earlier Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the administration is ending its moratorium on deep-water oil and gas drilling, which was implemented in May in response to the massive oil spill caused by the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Landrieu and Republican Sen. David Vitter have been highly critical of the moratorium, which was originally set to expire Nov. 30.

Landrieu, who called the announcement “a good start,” said it was not enough for her to release her hold on the nomination of Jacob Lew to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Landrieu announced the hold last month, explaining it was in protest to the deep-water drilling moratorium that she said was crushing the economy of her state.

In her statement Tuesday, Landrieu said she would monitor the administration’s handling of drilling permits before deciding whether to let Lew’s nomination go forward.

“When Congress reconvenes for the lame-duck session next month, I will have had several weeks to evaluate if today’s lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work,” she said.

Vitter was also less than enthusiastic about the administration’s announcement that it would lift the moratorium.

“I guess this is movement in the right direction, but it’s painfully slow,” Vitter said in a statement. “It’s clear that President Obama is going to preside over a continuing de facto moratorium for months or years, with new drilling held back to a fraction of previous levels.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called Landrieu’s hold “outrageous” and accused the Democratic Senator of playing politics with a nominee who has nothing to do with the drilling ban.

“The nomination of Jack Lew is not in any way connected to … any facet of the moratorium,” Gibbs said during a Tuesday briefing. He called on Landrieu to judge Lew “on the merits of being a budget director” instead of “playing politics with issues that are ancillary to what he does.”