The Senate on Wednesday rejected Republican-backed legislation intended to speed up and expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

In a 42-57 vote, the Senate failed to move forward with the bill, which was opposed by the White House and most Senate Democrats. Republicans needed 60 votes for the measure to proceed.

Every Senate Democrat voted against the motion to proceed along with five Republicans: Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and David Vitter (La.).

The legislation – which is similar to bills the House approved in recent weeks – would set deadlines for several upcoming Gulf of Mexico lease sales.

The White House and Democrats say they, too, support U.S. drilling but alleged the bill would compromise beefed-up safety standards imposed after the BP oil spill.

The White House criticized the bill in a statement Tuesday evening but did not issue a veto threat.

Continue reading →