Dem Senator: Obama Pause on Drilling Not Enough; 'Too Early to Tell' on Fed Response

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: With an environmental catastrophe developing as a result of a massive oil spill off the Gulf Coast, the White House today announced that no new offshore drilling will take place until there's an "adequate review" of what caused the explosion and subsequent leak from the BP tanker. That's a policy shift for an administration that announced plans for expanded drilling just a month ago.

But that pause doesn’t go far enough for some opponents of offshore drilling -- including some inside President Obama’s own party.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called on the president to reverse his policy, and reinstate a ban on new oil drilling off large swaths of the US coastline.

“This is the most sophisticated rig that we have in the world -- $600 million to build -- and look what happened,” Cardin said. “If we would have had a similar episode where the president would have opened up drilling along the Virginia coast, it could have had catastrophic impact on the Chesapeake Bay and on our beaches. Our entire summer season could have been destroyed.

“So, no -- I want to see the president reverse his policy. I don't believe the little bit of oil that might be out there is worth the type of risk that we now see becoming a fact in the Gulf of Mexico,” Cardin said. “There's tens of millions of acres available for current oil and gas exploration that hasn't been done yet. Much of that area is in totally safe areas on shore. So, there's plenty of areas that we can explore, but look at this: We have about two to three percent of the world's reserves in oil and we consume 25 percent.”

Asked whether the federal response to the incident has been adequate, Cardin said:

“I think it's too early to tell. Quite frankly, the original estimates that were given by the people responsible was much lower than what it was in reality. As you know, we heard it was 1,000 barrels a day; now it's 5,000 barrels a day. It might take a couple months before they can plug the holes. I think that information was not made available originally. I think the investigation will show whether they knew more and just didn't call for help soon enough, but quite frankly I think it's just too early to judge the effectiveness of the federal response.”

Cardin, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’s spoken to President Obama about his Supreme Court pick, and that he expects a nominee to be named “within the next week or two.”

“I think you're gonna see a lot of activity shortly,” he said.

Asked whether he expects strong GOP opposition regardless of who is named by the president, Cardin said: “Clearly the appointment to the Supreme Court is a major event and I do expect it to be a thorough, comprehensive discussion, and I respect all the colleagues both Democrats and Republicans who want to make sure that this is a thorough process But I hope it doesn't become one in which they obstruct or that they get sidetracked on politics rather than sticking to the nominee and the qualifications.”

We also checked in with Tammy Haddad to preview this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

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