Norm Coleman Takes Pledge to Oppose Extension of Drilling Ban

UPDATE — Aug. 15, 9:51 p.m.: My apologies to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. There’s no reason for him to sign the letter because it is addressed to him and Majority Leader Harry Reid. His name has been crossed off the list. That leaves 10.

Facing a competitive race back home, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) could have ducked the debate over the soon-to-expire offshore drilling ban. But rather than run from it, Coleman decided to join a growing list of Republicans who are vowing to actively oppose an extension of the ban if Democrats attempt to bring it to a vote.

Coleman’s signature means just 11 Senate Republicans have yet to offer their support: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and John Thune (S.D.).

The number stands at 48 in the House, where four Republicans offered their support yesterday. Reps. Ray LaHood (Ill.), Thomas Petri (Wis.), Doc Hastings (Wash.) and Frank Lucas (Okla.) signed the letter. I’ve updated yesterday’s post to reflect their support.

Collecting signatures for the letter, spearheaded by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), could prove vitally important come September. That is when Democrats are expected to outline their strategy for dealing with the expiration of the moratorium on exploration off the Outer Continental Shelf and in the oil-shale fields of the West.