(ran NS, S editions of TAMPA BAY AND STATE)
U.S. Rep. C. W. Bill Young said he will urge a congressional committee today to keep in place a moratorium banning oil drilling on Florida's coast.
"We're going to be up there fighting the battle with our own leadership," said Young, a Republican from Indian Rocks Beach whose district extends from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. Young spoke Monday to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg.
Young lashed out at opponents of the ban, who he said were backed by big oil companies that recently raised gasoline prices at the same time the price of crude oil fell $2 a barrel.
The Republican-controlled House subcommittee on the interior last week refused to renew the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling. The ban affected drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida, and in Pacific and Atlantic coastal waters, and Alaska's Bristol Bay, and had been kept in place by annual congressional votes since 1982.
Because the ban has wide bipartisan support in coastal states, attempts to restore it are expected in both the House and Senate.
Young said he hoped to win approval to restore the ban during a House Appropriations Committee meeting today. Young is a senior member of the committee.
On other issues, Young told the club members that the Republican-controlled House is serious about getting federal spending under control but said it would involve difficult choices.
Although Tiger Bay club members pride themselves on asking tough questions, Young turned the tables and asked the audience a tough question: Would they rather have Congress cut taxes or cut the deficit?
About half raised their hands for the first option, half for the second.
"You want to do both," Young quipped, after seeing the audience reaction. "I want to tell you that I think that's a good idea."
Young said afterward that if forced to choose between the two, "I think that reducing the deficit is extremely important."
In response to a question, Young said he did not foresee a time when workers would be allowed to "opt out" of the Social Security system and contribute their money to another retirement plan.