Senate Republicans are offering a number of proposals in response to the monster Gulf Coast oil spill — including solutions that they filibustered when Democrats first introduced them.
The GOP energy plan is in response to a Democratic energy bill rolled out this week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) designed to hold BP accountable for the damage caused by the massive oil disaster resulting from the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.
That disaster led to the fouling of a wide swath of the Gulf of Mexico, and became the worst catastrophe of its kind in U.S. history.
Senate Democrats subsequently introduced several measures designed to address the crisis, including separate pieces of legislation that would raise 20-year-old liability caps on the damages BP would have to pay, and would grant subpoena power to a White House commission charged with investigating the spill.
Although Republicans unanimously blocked both bills, both proposals are now part of the GOP plan, according to remarks delivered Wednesday on the Senate floor by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
In his speech, McConnell charges that “Democrats are doing their best to keep us from passing a serious energy bill before the August recess,” before he outlines GOP proposals that include those provisions Republicans previously filibustered.
“Our energy bill would give the President the ability to raise the liability caps on economic damages done by companies like BP — without driving small independent oil producers out of business,” McConnell says.
Republicans also would create “a true bipartisan commission — with subpoena power — to investigate the oil spill, rather than the President’s anti-drilling commission,” McConnell contends.
The commission created by President Obama is bipartisan, however, as it is co-chaired by a former Democratic senator from Florida and a Republican ex-administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The GOP plan also would rescind the temporary drilling moratorium put forward by the Obama administration to halt further deepwater drilling until the causes of the BP disaster are known and rectified. Industry has howled loudly in opposition to that moratorium. The drilling industry and their allies on Capitol Hill argue the moratorium will cost too many jobs.
“So we’ve got our own ideas. We’ve got some of their ideas,” McConnell says of the GOP oil plan. “Our bill doesn’t kill jobs. It doesn’t put a moratorium on production. We’re not interested in yet another debate about a Democrat bill in which the prerequisite is killing more jobs.
“Our bill would address this crisis at hand. Their bill would use the crisis to stifle business and kill jobs in a region that’s in desperate need of jobs. It was my hope that we could have a real debate about energy. Clearly, the Majority isn’t interested in that debate.”
A spokesman for Reid says McConnell’s plan amounts to a bailout for BP’s benefit.
“You would have to be incredibly out of touch to think we should bail out BP for the disaster they caused in the Gulf, yet that is exactly what Senate Republicans are proposing. Besides the fact that the Republican plan does nothing to create jobs, their proposal would essentially trust BP to pay back the millions of Americans whose livelihoods they’ve ruined,” Jim Manley says, referring to the commercial fishermen and others whose jobs are in jeopardy due to the spill.
“This defies common sense. These hard-working people just had the rug pulled out from under them, and Democrats believe they should not be forced to fight BP’s army of corporate lawyers for years to come just to get the compensation they deserve,” Manley adds.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.