Put Up Or Shut Up: Dems Press Boehner To Get Serious About Making BP Pay

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Democrats are asking House Minority Leader John Boehner to put his money (or at least his signature) where his mouth is. Boehner took to the Sunday shows this weekend to say he supports forcing BP to pay for the full cost of damages in the Gulf, but has been largely mum on how, legislatively, he proposes to do that. Now, Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Jay Inslee (D-WA), authors of a bill that would retroactively and permanently remove the $75 million liability cap on BP and other oil companies, are inviting him to join their efforts

In a letter delivered to Boehner today, which was passed my way, Holt and Inslee question Boehner’s commitment to forcing BP to pay up, and suggest a way for him to clear the air. “[W]e ask that you personally state whether you will lead your caucus in supporting legislation to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to require BP to pay, in a timely manner, for all containment and removal efforts and reasonable damages resulting from this disaster.”As the letter notes, Republicans quietly favor a different approach–a bill sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that seeks to renegotiate BP’s lease on the drilling site, without lifting the overall cap on damages. However Democrats and experts say that approach–potentially unconstitutional–creates a loophole that would allow BP to walk away from the damages.

“We would like to know whether you will lead your caucus in supporting the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act in its current state…as your leadership would be helpful in moving this legislation,” the letter goes on. “[W]e would like to know why you have withheld your public support for these initiatives so far.”

I’ve reached out to Boehner’s staff for comment on Holt and Inslee’s push, or to see if he plans to respond. You can read the entire letter here.

Late update: Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emails over a response. “Boehner’s position has been crystal clear from Day One: BP is entirely responsible for the cost of the clean-up in the Gulf. Taxpayers should not pay one dime. This letter is an example of cynical Democrats attempting to exploit one mistaken liberal blog post for partisan gain.”

He adds that he’s not aware of any current effort by the GOP to push their own plan to lift the cap on BP’s liability.

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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