In response to one of the greatest oil disasters in history, the U.S. Senate will do nothing. Republican opposition to the limited oil industry reform package assembled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (S. 3663) has led him to pull the bill — and the BP-friendly Republican alternative (S. 3643) — from the floor. Pressed for time, Reid chose not to force his opponents to cast a vote on behalf of their oil sponsors. Reid’s package is almost exclusively made of bipartisan pieces of legislation:
— Interior Department drilling reform, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
— Natural gas trucks retrofitting, co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
— The “cash for caulkers” Homestar energy efficiency program, co-sponsored by Bingaman and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
These initiatives would have held BP accountable, created jobs, protected the environment, cleaned the air, and strengthened energy security.
However, Murkowski, Hatch, and Graham joined their Republican colleagues — as well as the oil-fueled Democrats Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AK) — in opposing Reid’s bill because it lifted the $75 million liability cap for oil companies like BP responsible for a major oil spill.
“It should be an affront to those who are serious about enacting good policy,” bloviated Murkowski, who had singlehandedly blocked a vote on lifting the liability cap in May. “Unlimited liability pretty much puts the big nail in the coffin,” said Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon.
The Republican counter-proposal would have replaced the liability cap with a complicated formula that essentially kept the cap unchanged, keeping the American taxpayer on the hook for any future big oil bailouts.