Why Are Senate Republicans Running Defense for BP?


Just how screwed up is the Senate? Well, here’s an example. Yesterday Republicans blocked a bill that would grant subpoena power to the oil spill commission President Obama formed to investigate the Deepwater Horizon disaster and make policy recommendations to prevent future drilling calamities.

The House approved its version of the bill almost unanimously last week, with just Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) voting against it. Granting the commission this authority is pretty vital; basically, it will allow the commission to obtain documents, compel testimony from witnesses, and otherwise get a hold of necessary information (i.e. do its job.). House sponsor Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) says subpoena power is “absolutely critical to ensuring that BP and other private companies cannot stonewall” the commission. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), one of the Senate sponsors, has argued that without subpoena power “a commission is just window dressing.”

But when Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) attempted to bring up the bill under unanimous consent yesterday, Jim DeMint (R-SC) blocked it. His spokesman told Politico that DeMint didn’t object to it personally. On the floor, the senator said he was objecting “on behalf of other members of the Republican caucus.” Who in particular? Well, obviously no one wanted to admit as much.

There you have it: the US Congress, where a bill can be approved 420-1 in the House and then get denied even consideration in the Senate.

This is yet another terrible sign for moving anything in the way of reforms on offshore drilling. Democrats are planning to debate an as-yet-undetermined package of energy, oil-spill, and possibly climate provisions after they return from the July 4 recess. But they will of course need the votes of at least a few Republicans to proceed on any of it. And so far, the Senate can’t even move a bill as mundane as the subpoena legislation.

UPDATE: Ah, Greg Sargent just reported that Senate Republicans now say they will stop blocking the subpoena bill. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman says they won’t object when it is brought up again. They were just blocking it yesterday because they hadn’t yet had time to read the bill, according to DeMint’s spokesman. Maybe good things can happen in the Senate. But since senators have already gone home for the July 4 recess, we’ll have to wait until July 12 for the bill to be offered again.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

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 want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.