Friday saw a vote on an amendment from Charles Melancon that would end the temporary moratorium on the expansion of offshore drilling in American waters. As simple as that seems, the roll call is difficult to interpret, because of the way that the issue was framed.
Congressional Republicans successfully outmaneuvered the House Democrats by claiming that the issue at hand was jobs, rather than protecting the Gulf Coast from oil spills like the one caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. The Republicans argued that safety inspections would be too slow, and steered the debate to the question of whether Representative Melancon’s amendment would allow offshore drilling to expand fast enough. Most of the Democrats went along with this maneuver, so that the debate became a battle between expanding offshore drilling as rapidly as possible and expanding offshore drilling with a small number of new safety measures.
The question of whether offshore drilling should be expanded at all, in the wake of the ecological ruin of the Gulf of Mexico, wasn’t in the minds of most members of Congress at all. Only few argued against the expansion of offshore drilling.
So, we come to the roll call. Most Republicans ended up voting against the Melancon amendment, but only because they wanted an end to the moratorium on expansion of offshore drilling that asked practically nothing of the oil industry. By creating a few new requirements for safety, they said, Melancon’s amendment made too much obstruction for oil companies like BP.
Most Democrats, successfully maneuvered away from an environmentalist position, voted for the Melancon amendment. 39 Democrats did vote against the amendment – but why did they vote against it? Were they opposed to allowing the expansion of offshore drilling, or were they, like the Republicans, opposed to any new regulations of offshore drilling?
In the effort to try to understand this vote, our system of legislative scorecards is helpful, because it gives us an indication of the general ideological disposition of the politicians who voted on Melancon’s amendment.
Melissa Bean – Progressive score 35
Judy Chu – Progressive score 39
Ron Klein – Progressive score 39
Daniel Lipinski – Progressive score 26
Walt Minnick – Progressive score 39
Mike Quigley – Progressive score 32
John Salazar – Progressive score 29
William Lacy Clay – Progressive score 52
Steve Cohen – Progressive score 65
Raul Grijalva – Progressive score 77
Paul Hodes – Progressive score 52
Rush Holt – Progressive score 71
Dennis Kucinich – Progressive score 65
Kendrick Meek – Progressive score 52
Grace Napolitano – Progressive score 58
Frank Pallone – Progressive score 58
Ed Pastor – Progressive score 61
Robert Scott – Progressive score 58
Carol Shea-Porter – Progressive score 55
Brad Sherman – Progressive score 52
Jackie Speier – Progressive score 52
Debbie Wasserman Schultz – Progressive score 52
Maxine Waters – Progressive score 55
Peter Welch – Progressive score 58
Brian Baird – Progressive score 45
Kathy Castor – Progressive score 48
Alan Grayson – Progressive score 42
John Hall – Progressive score 48
James Langevin – Progressive score 42
Ben Lujan – Progressive score 48
Stephen Lynch – Progressive score 45
Dan Maffei – Progressive score 45
Gwen Moore – Progressive score 48
Lucille Roybal-Allard – Progressive score 48
Nydia VelÃ¡zquez – Progressive score 48
Ted Deutch – Progressive score 6 (*new member of House of Representatives)
The largest group of House Democrats who voted against the Melancon Amendment is the progressives. It’s safe to assume that most of these representatives voted the way that they did because they’re opposed to the expansion of offshore drilling.
It’s also safe to assume that many of the right-leaning Democrats, and many of the “in-between” bunch, voted the way they did because they had been co-opted by the Republican maneuver of equating any new regulation of the oil industry with the loss of jobs. However, there may be some exceptions in these groups. It’s worth noting that there are some politicians from Florida among the non-progressives. Although they’re generally not inclined to support many progressive causes, they may be motivated by their state’s long coastline, and by voter sentiment in Florida, which is strongly against the expansion of offshore drilling.