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Diaz-Balart votes against amendment that would ban federal funds for oil drilling exploration


Mario Diaz-Balart


Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart voted against an amendment that would ban federal funds for oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf before 2022, the only member from Florida in the House Appropriations Committee to do so. 

But Diaz-Balart said that his vote against Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree's amendment was not a signal that he favors offshore oil drilling in Florida. 

"Current law states that any offshore drilling or leasing activity is banned in Florida," Diaz-Balart spokesperson Katrina Bishop said. "Congressman Diaz-Balart worked with his colleagues to ensure this bill passed and was signed into law in 2006. In addition, Interior Secretary (Ryan) Zinke has stated on multiple occasions that Florida will be exempt from any future offshore drilling. Any assertion that Diaz-Balart’s vote today would result in offshore drilling off Florida’s shores is incorrect." 

The amendment was part of an hours-long debate on various additions to the 2019 Interior and Environment funding bill, a $35.25 billion package. The amendment failed 20-26, on a mostly party-line vote, though Florida Republican Rep. John Rutherford voted in favor of the amendment along with Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The fourth member of the Appropriations Committee from Florida, Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, did not vote.

Pingree's amendment stated that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to prepare a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would schedule any Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale before 2022."

Florida currently has a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022. Sen. Bill Nelson has filed legislation to make the moratorium a permanent ban, and Zinke's announcement set off charges from the Florida Democrat that the Trump administration exempted Florida from a plan to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling to benefit Gov. Rick Scott politically as he campaigns for Nelson's Senate seat. 

"It’s outrageous that ANY member of Congress from Florida would EVER vote to allow offshore drilling," tweeted Mary Barzee Flores, a Democrat who will run against Diaz-Balart in November.