A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., failed by a vote of 42-57 to pass the floor for debate. The bill was meant to force the government to hold a sale for offshore leases off the Virginian and Louisiana coasts that was postponed after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year.
McConnell in his statement to the Senate said the deal would've gone a long way to reducing the dependence on foreign energy.
"By unlocking our own domestic resources, and speeding up the permitting process, our plan would actually do something to increase supply, putting downward pressure on price," he told Senate leaders.
Democrats countered the measure would've had the reverse effect by preventing the issuance of any offshore leases. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said the bill would "encourage government bureaucrats to stop any and all permits." That, he said, "would be a terrible outcome."
The bill -- Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011 -- required regulators to rule on applications for drilling within 30 days. U.S. lawmakers are wrangling over domestic energy policy as consumers struggle with gasoline prices hovering near $4 per gallon.