Obama to Congressional Leaders: Examination of Laws to Better Protect Oil Spill Victims Needed

From Sunlen Miller

After meeting with a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders on the work agenda going forward, President Obama said at the “top of the list” of discussion was the continued response to the crisis in the Gulf, and again called for an examination of laws in place that have not been “adequate” for the magnitude of the crisis seen in the Gulf.

“We had a frank conversation about the fact that the laws that have been in place have not been adequate for a crisis of this magnitude,” Obama said from the Cabinet Room, “The Oil Pollution Act was passed at a time when people didn't envision drilling four miles under the sea for oil. And so it's going to be important that based on facts, based on experts, on a thorough examination of what went wrong here and where things have gone right but also where things have gone wrong, that we update the laws.”

The president said they need to make sure that the people in the Gulf’s lives are “made whole” and that they are in a “much better position” to respond to any such crisis in the future.

“I was pleased to see bipartisan agreement that we have to deal with that in a aggressive, forward-leaning way,” he said.

The president also called for movement on an energy agenda that is forward-looking, “that creates jobs, that assures that we are leaders in solar and wind and biodiesel; that recognizes that we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for many years to come, that we are going to still be using oil and we're still going to be using other fossil fuels, but that we have to start planning now and putting the infrastructure in place now, putting the research and development in place now, so that we end up being leaders in our energy future.”

After emerging from a meeting with President Obama today, Republicans said that they are not interested in working with Democrats if they are “seizing on the oil spill” to use that as a “rationale” for passing cap and trade legislation.

“We're perfectly happy to work with the administration on legislation that might be appropriate directly related to the spill in the Gulf,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters, “What I believe most of my members, if not all of them, and a substantial number of Democrats in the United States Senate will not be interested in is seizing on the oil spill in the Gulf and using that as a rationale, if you will, for passing a national energy tax.”

McConnell said it is “completely and totally” unrelated to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf.

“I'm confident there will be bipartisan opposition to using the oil spill as a rationale or excuse for passing a national energy tax, which is completely and totally unrelated to an appropriate response to this environmental catastrophe.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted BP after the meeting.

It is clear that there was a lack of integrity on the part of British -- of BP when it came to what it told us about the adequacy of their technology, the sufficiency of blowout prevention and the capacity to clean up.”

Pelosi called on BP to attend to their financial responsibilities to those in the Gulf, before giving dividends.

“Before British Petroleum continues to spend money on its public relations campaign and its advertising and continues to give dividends it really should honor the commitment it has.”

Pelosi said it is appropriate for the government to insist that they obey the law.

“That would be their best public relations. Instead of taking out all these ads,” she said of BP.

-Sunlen Miller

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