(Recasts lead, adds Markey comments)
WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, on Monday rejected a call by U.S. President George W. Bush to lift a moratorium on offshore oil drilling.
Bush announced on Monday that he lifted the executive branch’s restriction on offshore exploration, saying only Congress stood in the way of opening up America’s untapped oil riches.
But Reid said oil companies should focus instead on drilling on much of the 68 million acres that they have leased but not used for exploration.
Asked, however, if he expected to have the votes to block legislation to lift the moratorium in face of soaring gasoline prices, Reid told a news conferences, “We will have to wait and see.”
Reid said he hoped to have legislation introduced this week to crack down on oil speculators.
On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, mocked Bush’s call earlier in the day to lift the ban.
“The Bush oil policy is an attempt at mass deception by a White House that has, for the last seven and a half years, pursued Big Oil’s agenda of drill, drill, drill,” Markey, chairman of a select House of Representatives committee on energy independence, told a news conference.
“Drill, drill, drill has failed, failed, failed,” Markey said. “It has failed to make America energy independent. It has failed to prevent rising prices at the pump.” (Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Russell Blinch and Christian Wiessner)