The Washington Times - August 12, 2008, 03:59PM

Senate Republicans are stiffening spines for what could be the final showdown on expanding offshore oil drilling, but Sen. John McCain has not yet signed on.

In a letter to Senate leaders Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who has taken a hard stance in favor of drilling, says he’s rallied 36 senators to pledge to “actively oppose” any effort to extend the offshore drilling ban beyond Oct. 1.

Republicans have leverage, because Congress must actively extend the ban or it sunsets automatically. Democrats are looking to attach an extension to another must-pass bill, to try to force Republicans to accept it.

But McCain, who earlier this year flipped positions and now embraces more offshore drilling, had not signed on as of this morning. Oddly, his legislative shadow, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has.

Republicans’ Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, also hasn’t signed because the letter is addressed to him, but if he and McCain were both to join in, that would give Republicans 38 votes — just three shy of being able to guarantee a filibuster.

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times