Samantha Hayes, in Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2008
John McCain believes that drastic times call for aggressive action. He will tell a receptive audience in Houston today he wants to end the moratorium on offshore oil drilling. It's an economic initiative McCain hopes will win him support by relieving some financial stress on Americans.
Politically, McCain's proposal brings him in line with his Republican colleagues who have wanted to see the ban lifted, and were narrowly defeated by Democrats in a recent House subcommittee. It also scores points with those Americans hit hardest by tough economic times.
However, there is a flip side. McCain has made friends with strong voices in the environmental movement and this proposal will most certainly hurt that relationship. It's also a major change in policy for McCain and he opens himself up to attack from Democratic rival Barack Obama.
The moratorium is 26 years old, and part of McCain proposal is to give states the final say on whether it should be lifted. That may help in battlegrounds like Virginia, a state that is interested in exploring offshore drilling and Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist seems to be softening his opposition. Crist told the St. Petersburg Times, "It's the last thing in the world I'd like to do, but I also understand what people are paying at the pump, and I understand the drag it is on our economy."
This is the second major proposal from McCain in this election year to curb the high price of gas. McCain has also called for a suspension of the federal gas tax that would require Congressional and White House action. While that is seen as unlikely, McCain's strategy is to show voters who give him high marks on national security and foreign policy that he also has a plan for the economy.