McConnell questions Obama in advance of speech

06/15/2010 11:33 AM

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, offered pre-emptive criticism of President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday night to address the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, said the president needs to talk more about the government’s role in trying to make sure the leak is stopped and British Petroleum cleans it up than making a pitch for legislation aimed at curbing pollution from energy production.

“If early reports are accurate, the President will use his remarks not as an occasion to unite the nation in a common effort to solve the immediate problem, but to make his case for a new national energy tax commonly known as Cap and Trade,” McConnell said. “If true, this means that the President plans to use the justifiable public outrage over an explosion that killed 11 people and the oil spill that followed as a tool for pushing a divisive new climate change policy even as hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil continue to spill into the Gulf each day.”

Obama has scheduled an Oval Office address for 8 p.m. Tuesday. While BP has taken the most criticism for the spill, Obama administration has come under fire for its response to the spill. While Democrats, including Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth, have defended the government actions since the explosion on the Deep Water Horizon started the spill, McConnell and other Republicans have ramped up their critical rhetoric.

McConnell read in his remarks a list of questions he has for Obama:

First, the administration acknowledges that it took BP at its word early on about its ability to respond to a crisis like this. The question is why? Why did the Minerals Management Service under this administration accept BP’s word that it was prepared to deal with a worst-case spill like the one we are now experiencing in the Gulf?

Second, why were the inspections MMS performed on the Deepwater Horizon, and presumably on other rigs as well, unable to detect the problems that eventually became so apparent?  What changes need to be made to make these inspections effective?

Third, the law requires the President to ensure the effective cleanup of an oil spill when it occurs. Specifically, it requires the President to have a National Contingency Plan in place, and that plan is supposed to provide for sufficient personnel and equipment to clean up a spill. Clearly, the administration’s National Contingency Plan was not up to the task.  Why not?  Did it rely too much on the oil companies to perform the cleanup?

Also, why, as has been widely reported, has the administration been slow to accept offers of assistance from countries who have offered skimming vessels and other technologies to help clean up the spill?

Since the cleanup is clearly not going as planned, shouldn’t we be accepting legitimate offers of assistance wherever we can get them?

McConnell said Republicans were willing to have a debate over Cap and Trade legislation and energy issues, but he repeatedly said that the priority now is find a way to plug the leak and stop BP’s mess from spreading further.

“Legislation to respond to this oil spill should be an opportunity for genuine bipartisan cooperation, of the kind that the President so frequently says he wants and of the kind that has been sorely needed and sorely lacking in this midst of this calamity,” he said.

- Ryan Alessi


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