Spill Bill Duel, Nobody Wins

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The clock is running down for the Senate to pass its oil-spill-and-energy package before the August recess. The House passed their bill on Friday, but the Senate has been caught up in bickering over legislation to address what is by far the worst oil spill in US history. It seems very likely that the Senate won’t pass even this much-scaled back version of the legislation.

Senate Democrats have a package that includes spill-response measures with some energy provisions. Senate Republicans have offered their own suite of measures, which includes lifting the moratorium on new deepwater drilling.

The biggest flash point is the liability cap for oil spills, which is currently set at just $75 million. The Democrats’ bill would eliminate it entirely. Republicans support raising it, but not too much; their bill give the administration prerogative to adjust the limit in light of specific incidents. The liability cap is also an issue for moderate Democrats, who have been working on a compromise package that likely to be ready in time for consideration this week.

Both the Republican and Democratic bills will get a procedural vote on Wednesday, though neither is expected to pass. In all likelihood, the Senate will adjourn this week with nothing accomplished on the subject.

But that doesn’t mean both sides will go home empty handed; both will use the issue to bash the other party heading into the November elections. Robert Dillon, spokesman for Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, has already given us a taste of what’s to come. Here’s his email blast to reporters today:

We’ve gone from the majority leader scheduling two weeks to do energy legislation to one week to two days to one day to a couple of hours—for a process that can take months to do properly… This is further evidence that the majority leader does not expect the energy bill to move forward and that this is simply an exercise in political messaging. It also calls into question who really wrote the bill introduced by Majority Leader Reid.

He continues:

Instead of turning a tragic disaster into a messaging strategy, the majority leader should be focusing on passing a bill to help restore balance to the Gulf and the offshore drilling industry. He, however, has chosen to once again play partisan games and not allow a full debate and open amendment process on either of the proposed bills.

Just a taste of the partisan back and forth we can expect on the floor tomorrow as senators manage to do absolutely nothing meaningful on the Gulf disaster before checking out for the month. Just another day in the most august elected body in our land!

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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