Sen. David Vitter of oil spill-ravaged Louisiana tells Newsmax that he is “offended” by President Obama’s attempt to use the crisis to push his cap-and-trade legislation.
The Republican lawmaker also says cap and trade legislation is still “going nowhere,” complains that the federal response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been “completely inadequate,” and asserts that Obama’s moratorium on new offshore drilling is “killing” his state economically.
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Sen. Vitter was first elected in 2004 and is a member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. Along with Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, he has filed legislation to lift the six-month moratorium on new offshore deepwater drilling President Obama imposed after the BP oil rig explosion and subsequent environmental disaster caused by gushing oil.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Vitter was asked about Obama’s Tuesday night speech from the Oval Office, in which he discussed the oil spill.
“I have three main reactions,” Vitter responds.
“First of all, the president clearly and several times used the war analogy in terms of fighting this crisis. That’s great rhetoric, but the reality on the ground along the Louisiana coast regarding the federal response does not match that rhetoric. We still need a sense of urgency, which is not yet there. And we still need a clear military-style chain of command.
“Secondly, this moratorium needs to be lifted. It is killing us economically. It’s costing us more jobs than the oil itself. I’m pushing that the administration asks their new blue ribbon panel to immediately make recommendations for safety measures that can go into effect now so the moratorium can be lifted.
“Third, I was offended, quite frankly, that the president used a big chunk of the speech to essentially use the ongoing crisis to push his cap-and-trade agenda. This is a crisis. It’s an ongoing flow affecting Louisiana every hour of every day. I’d like him to deal with it, not use and abuse it to push his preexisting legislative agenda.”
Vitter referred to an earlier statement from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that the administration should not “waste a good crisis” when it can be exploited to further a political agenda. He was talking about the financial crisis, but “unfortunately that same political attitude is being brought to bear on our crisis in the Gulf,” Vitter says.
“This is an ongoing crisis. It’s the equivalent of a new oil spill every day, and the president needs to be an executive and attack that and command that, not a legislator proposing a bill.
“We don’t need a bill about energy policy. We need to deal immediately with this crisis and have a truly effective federal response, which we do not yet have.”
Asked about the cap and trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions, Vitter declares:
“I believe cap-and-trade is going nowhere. It was before the oil spill and it’s still going nowhere now.
“Some other energy legislation might have some chance. But I think cap-and-trade, which I call cap-and-tax, is still, thankfully, going nowhere in the Senate.”
Vitter has introduced legislation with complete Republican support – which can be passed with Democratic cooperation immediately, he says — to completely lift the $75 million cap on BP’s liability for damages for this spill.
It also sets up an expedited claims process so that people who have suffered damage from the spill and need aid “would get it not just eventually but immediately, so they can make it month to month and week to week,” Vitter explains.
Vitter was asked about the White House’s rejection of offers from the British and Dutch to send ships with oil-skimming booms to help clean up the oil spill.
“Unfortunately it’s just one of many examples about this bureaucratic pace that we have,” he tells Newsmax.
“Clearly we do not have enough access in the Gulf now. Just a few days ago I was there and saw oil approaching Grand Isle and there wasn’t a skimmer in sight. There’s no excuse for that.”
Discussing the situation in his state, Vitter says: “There’s enormous economic devastation, and it’s on two levels. First of all, [there are] all the fishermen, shrimpers, oystermen who are directly impacted by the oil spill, restaurants, the seafood industry. It really threatens these people’s way of life, not just their livelihood.
“But then on top of that, unfortunately, the president has brought more pain to bear through this moratorium on all deepwater drilling. If that stands, that will cost us more jobs, more economic negative impact, than the impact of the oil itself.”
Louisiana is also suffering from a “completely inadequate and completely failed federal response,” he adds.
“Everybody in Louisiana, including me, is mad as hell at BP. They have really screwed up in major ways, and a lot of that continues. But apart from that, the federal response has been a failure, and that needs to turn around.”
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