Dems Object To Latest GOP Plan To Increase Oil Spill Liability

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Democrats are preparing to oppose the latest GOP plan to hold oil companies accountable for spill damages in the future.

A new plan, authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), and passed my way by a source, would give the President the authority to set liability caps, based on congressionally approved guidelines, on a spill-by-spill basis. The idea is that this legislation would replace the Democrats’ bid to simply lift the liability cap, exposing companies to the full cost of their spills. An Inhofe spokesman says they want to work with Democrats on the GOP proposal and use it as a substitute when the Environment and Public Works committee meets to consider the Democratic plan tomorrow.

Democrats who support lifting the cap altogether say no way. They’re preparing a list of objections to Inhofe’s plan, highlighting the fact that it leaves the President — and future, more oil-friendly Presidents — tremendous discretion to set low liability caps, and that spill damages can not be predicted ahead of time.

We’ll see how this pans out tomorrow when EPW meets to mark up the Democrats’ bill. Dems seem to be trying to get out in front of this one, worried perhaps that some of their members might get thrown for a loop by the Inhofe plan.


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