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In 2016, O'Rourke voted for a measure that would have let federal dollars fund oil and gas exploration studies in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where most offshore drilling is prohibited, according to a Texas Tribune report. At the time, conservation groups blasted the proposal.
The current drilling ban in the eastern Gulf enjoys bipartisan support in the battleground state of Florida and in South Carolina, which hosts an important early presidential primary, the Tribune also points out.
O'Rourke campaign spokesman Chris Evans said the former El Paso congressman originally cast his vote as an effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. However, after traveling the country and meeting voters, O'Rourke has since rethought his position.
“[The] follow up to that is he wouldn’t cast that same vote today with all that he knows and all that he has heard from people,” Evans told the Tribune.
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