Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, today informed the White House and her majority leader Harry Reid that she would block the appointment of Jack Lew to the post of Office of Management and Budget director until the White House committed to lifting or significantly altering its moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Landrieu has repeatedly spoken out against the moratorium, which Obama put into place after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf in April and leaked oil into the ocean all summer. Landrieu believes the moratorium is costing her state thousands of jobs and causing permanent damage to an industry that is vital to the region's economy. A New Orleans judge knocked down the moratorium in June, and earlier this month knocked down its temporary successor.
Aaron Saunders, Landrieu's communications director, told me that as far as he knew, today was the first the White House and Democratic leadership had heard of Landrieu's plans to boycott the appointment. The senator met with Lew on September 14, and though she formed a positive opinion of his expertise, she wrote in her letter to Reid, "I found that he lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast."
Sen. Reid's office had no comment. Robert Dillon, spokesman for Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- on which Landrieu serves as a Democrat -- had not heard of Landrieu's plans, but confirmed that the moratorium is very unpopular.
Kenneth Baer, communications director for the White House's Office of Management and Budget, emailed the following:
Jack Lew has received overwhelming, bipartisan support from Senators across the spectrum in both Committees. 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.
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