June 20, 2010

We've heard a lot of carping from Republicans on how the Obama administration has handled this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and Sen. Roger Wicker from "the coast is clear, come on down" Mississippi was no exception with the Republican's response to the President's weekly address. Wicker complains that the Obama administration has politicized the disaster while doing little more than politicizing it himself with this rebuttal.

He complains that the Democrats heaven forbid would like to get their energy bill passed which of course is going to end up being friendly to industry even if it does manage to make its way through the Senate, but in Wicker's world that's exploiting "this crisis to push his liberal agenda for a cap-and-tax scheme".

And Sen. Wicker is upset that "the Democratic plan to increase oil cleanup fees and raid those funds [is going] to pay for unrelated programs". McClatchy has more on that.

Democrats propose new oil tax, but what would it pay for?:

Senate Democratic leaders want to impose a 41 cent per barrel tax on oil companies to help clean up future spills — more than five times what the companies pay now — but Republicans say the effort is deceptive because there's no guarantee that the money would be used for that purpose.

The proposed fee increase has become the latest weapon in the political war over oil, as lawmakers made the plan symbolic of larger congressional election-year themes. Republican senators said that the fee hike, which would raise an estimated $15 billion over 10 years, would help pay for a host of programs that Democrats are championing.

The dispute is helping to stall an emergency spending bill that would revive expired unemployment benefits, provide money for summer jobs for at-risk youths and pay for other programs. The oil fee would help reduce the bill's potential deficit spending to about $78.6 billion over 10 years.

"This is the ultimate exercise in bait and switch," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Wednesday.

"It steals that money out of the fund," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., referring to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Democrats countered that their eagerness to impose the tax and boost the oil spill fund shows that they're unafraid to take on big oil while Republicans protect the industry.

Heaven forbid we're talking about "bait and switch" when it comes to making sure Americans aren't suffering because they're out of work.

And lastly in Wicker's criticisms of the response to the spill, he's not happy about the moratorium on deepwater drilling.

I'd like to know what they're going to say if another one of these rigs blows up like the Deepwater Horizon did. When the Republican Party decides to start offering some solutions besides "drill, baby, drill" and don't dare tax the oil companies, then maybe they deserve a place at the table for this debate.

I'm not happy with the response to this disaster but my concerns are not being addressed by what is supposed to be the opposition party in Congress. That opposition party is a bigger protector of the oil industry than the party in power and they have absolutely no credibility when it comes to criticizing why the government hasn't handled this disaster in the manner that would satisfy most Americans. The Republicans are the party of believing we don't need any regulations and that industry can regulate themselves, until something like this happens, and then they expect the government that they didn't want to function to fix everything for us.

I do have some grave concerns for what looks to me like the Coast Guard being co-opted by BP and if I hear one more excuse from Thad Allen about why they're not bringing in every available tanker to suck up this oil and no explanation for why they're still allowing them to pour millions of gallons of toxic dispersants into the Gulf, I'm going to throw something at my television screen the next time he's on it. If the Republicans want to harp about the response I'll be more than happy if they hold the administration and the Coast Guard and BP to account for the clean up and containment.

Sadly their arguments in this response offer no solutions to fixing the mess we've got going on in the Gulf. Just cheap political shots.

Transcript via the LA Times.

Hello, I am Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi.

As we enter the third month of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we continue to learn more and more disturbing information about gross negligence on the part of BP -- and about some proposals from the Obama Administration that will do more harm than good.

From the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Obama attempted to recover from a widespread perception that he has not made this crisis a priority.

The public outcry about the President’s inattention has been loud and it has been bi-partisan.

I’m glad President Obama is finally putting this catastrophe at the top of his agenda, but his response has been too slow. He was slow in listening to state and local leaders, slow in....

...getting skimmers to the Gulf, slow in understanding the seriousness of this crisis, and slow in taking ownership and responsibility for the recovery. Many of his actions have actually taken us in the wrong direction.

Earlier this week the President came to the Gulf Coast. After visiting with him in Mississippi, I was optimistic that he was removing politics from this disaster and focusing solely on fixing the problem.

Republicans in Congress and at the state level looked forward to participating in a bipartisan, non-political solution to the many challenges this disaster has brought.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed. In less than a day, we were reminded of Rahm Emanuel’s theory of never letting a good crisis go to waste.

In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama made it clear that he intends to exploit this crisis to push his liberal agenda for a cap-and-tax scheme. This is a disservice not only to the victims and their families but also to the millions of Gulf Coast residents who are struggling in the wake of the spill.

Americans increasingly reject the cap-and-tax proposal because it would drive up the cost of energy and force American jobs overseas.

The President spent more than a third of his address advocating this national energy tax, revealing his true priorities. Now is not the time to push a controversial, job-killing, partisan agenda through Congress.

In addition to devastating our economy, this proposal would do nothing to fix the disastrous leak or clean up our beaches, marshes, and waters.

Another idea that takes us in the wrong direction is the Democratic plan to increase oil cleanup fees and raid those funds to pay for unrelated programs. These funds are needed to clean up spills, not to satisfy Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi’s desire to raise federal spending.

In addition, the administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling has the potential to become the third wave of this disaster. If left in place, the moratorium will permanently eliminate thousands of jobs and drive up the cost of energy for all Americans. You don’t have to take my word for it. Earlier this week democratic strategist James Carville said the moratorium was [quote] “wrecking the economy” of the Gulf Coast.

Along with the spill’s devastation to our fisheries and the administration’s decision to halt our drilling, one of the greatest threats to the economy of the Gulf Coast is the loss of tourism. Our hotels and restaurants have seen business decrease by as much as 70%.

At a brief press conference on Monday, President Obama pointed out that there are a lot of beaches that are not affected and will not be affected. I was hoping the President would make this important point to the larger audience Tuesday night, but since he didn’t, I’ll say it again. The vast majority of Gulf Coast beaches are clear, beautiful and safe.

BP CEO Tony Hayward recently said he wanted his life back and later correctly apologized. BP put dollars before safety, and we are all paying the price. We have been told that BP will be held accountable and pay all damages.

But what we in the Gulf states really need is to have our way of life back. We want our jobs back, our economy back, and we need our tourists back.

So please come and visit us. You deserve a vacation, and we could use the business. Thank you.

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