Senate Standoff on Spill Liability


After a third Republican block of a Democratic bill to raise the liability on oil spills, the GOP put forward its own bill on Tuesday afternoon. This one would eliminate the cap only for the current spill, but not change the cap set under the Oil Pollution Act for future spills, which stands at $75 million.

The new bill comes from Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and David Vitter (R-La.), and also contains provisions that would expedite the claims process for Gulf residents. Vitter said on the floor that their measure would hold BP to its pledge to cover all costs related to the current spill. “That’s a contract offer,” he said on the floor Tuesday. “We’re saying we’ll take it.”

Murkowski blocked a first effort from Democrats to bring up a bill that would have raised the cap to $10 billion. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) blocked the same measure last week as well as a revised measure that would eliminate the cap outright on Tuesday. Murkowski said in a statement that she thinks the standard liability should be raised, but that “Congress needs to carefully consider what the appropriate cap should be” before proceeding.

Robert Menendez (D-NJ), cosponsor of Democratic effort to remove the cap, in turn blocked the Murkowski-Vitter bill Tuesday. “What happens when, God forbid, this happens again and the company doesn’t make this kind of offer,” Menendez said.

Both parties have accused the other of grandstanding on the issue. Meanwhile, oil is still gushing into the Gulf at an unknown rate and the liability cap remains a measly $75 million. Our Senate at work, folks! Never letting a good environmental disaster get in the way of partisan squabbling.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate