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US senator blocks Obama nominee over offshore drilling ban

A Democratic senator from Louisiana blocked President Barack Obama's pick for budget director to pressure for an end to a ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2010 07:49 IST

A Democratic senator from Louisiana on Thursday blocked President Barack Obama's pick for budget director to pressure for an end to a ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Senator Mary Landrieu said Jacob Lew, whose nomination got 22-1 support on Thursday from the Senate Budget Committee, "lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast."

"I cannot support further action on Mr Lew's nomination... until I am convinced that the president and his administration understand the detrimental impacts that the actual and de facto moratoria continue to have on the Gulf Coast," she said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Obama ordered a six month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after a massive BP oil leak from an undersea well.

The freeze was annulled by a court in July and promptly reinstated by the government. It expires on November 30.

BP's busted well was finally declared "dead" on Sunday, five months after a deadly oil rig explosion set off one of the costliest and largest environmental disasters ever.

Landrieu said Interior Department data showed the drilling ban would cost the Gulf region nearly 22,000 jobs and 10.2 billion dollars in losses to the oil sector.

Obama nominated Lew to succeed Peter Orzag as head of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Lew would be reprising a role as White House budget director that he played for Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, in an administration remembered as a model of fiscal restraint and careful budgeting.

During the first 17 months of the Obama administration, Lew served under Hillary Clinton as the deputy secretary of state for management and resources, effectively overseeing the vast department as chief operating officer.

Lew's task is daunting, as budget directors have few tools to trim the fat of the US government's operating costs other than unpopular tax increases or painful spending cuts.