2 parties differ over offshore drilling expansion

By MATTHEW DALY | May 18, 2011 | 1:59 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans are battling over how to boost offshore drilling, days after President Barack Obama called for increased U.S. oil production in the face of $4-a-gallon gasoline prices.

Both parties say they want to allow responsible oil and gas drilling a year after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, but they appeared far apart on details.

The Senate is voting Wednesday on a GOP bid to speed up decision-making on drilling permits and force the Obama administration to conduct previously scheduled lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off Virginia's coast. The sales were suspended after the BP spill.

Democrats have focused on repealing billions in tax breaks for large oil companies and called on companies to drill where they hold leases now.