Boehner Spox Walks Back BP Spill Comments

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John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emails to say Boehner does not believe that the government should be on the hook for the cost of the oil spill.

“Boehner made a general statement about who is responsible for the spill, and the federal government oversight was clearly lacking, but he has said repeatedly that BP is responsible for the cost of the cleanup,” Steel writes, pointing me to a Boehner statement from May 3, several days after the spill began.

“The White House must ensure that BP bears the entire financial burden to clean up this disaster. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up their mess.”

But there’s “clean up” and then there’s clean up.On May 28 Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue was asked about “clean up” in a more general sense–what should BP’s liability be beyond physically cleaning up the oil. Donohue said “It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game…. Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that.”

By “changing the law,” Donohue was referring to congressional efforts to raise the cap on damages for oil spills from the current $75 million to $10 billion, or to eliminate the cap altogether and make liability unlimited. That is in addition to the cost of cleaning up the spill.

Today, following up on Donohue’s comments, I asked Boehner, “do you agree with Tom Donohue of the Chamber that the government and taxpayers should pitch in to clean up the oil spill?”

His answer was straightforward: “I think the people responsible in the oil spill–BP and the federal government–should take full responsibility for what’s happening there.”

Steel did not respond when pressed whether Boehner disagrees with Donohue on this issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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