The Senate has voted to open more than eight (m) million acres of federal waters in the central Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.
The bill now must be reconciled with much broader drilling legislation passed by the House in June. Negotiations are likely in September.
Supporters say the measure would be a major step toward producing more domestic energy and forcing down natural gas prices that have soared in recent years.
Some critics of the legislation noted that it will be years before any oil or gas will be taken and that the legislation falls short of addressing many of the country's energy problems.
Still, the bill attracted wide, bipartisan support.