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To subpoena BP or not to subpoena BP? That is the question

As you know, GOP Rep Darrell Issa has been vowing to unleash an army of subpoena-wielding investigators on the Obama administration if Republicans take back the House. Issa has been lobbing serious allegations of wrongdoing at the White House on a near daily basis.

At the same time, House Republicans have strongly denied that they aren't interested in holding BP accountable for the spill, and have taken steps to demonstrate this, such as supporting lifting the liability cap and vowing that taxpayers will not be on the hook for damages associated with the disaster.

So it would seem to seriously complicate the message when Senate Republicans take active steps to impede any investigation into BP. And that's what Senator Jim DeMint has now done.

Last week, the House near-unanimously passed a measure that would grant subpoena power to the White House commission probing the spill. But DeMint is blocking it from proceeding in the Senate:

On the Senate floor, Republican Jim DeMint blocked a move to bring up a Democrat-sponsored bill that would have granted subpoena power to the White House oil spill commission. A similar measure passed the House last week by a vote of 420-1.

A spokesman for DeMint said the South Carolina senator himself does not object to giving the commission subpoena power, but was acting on behalf of "members of the Republican conference."

So according to DeMint's spokesman, DeMint is holding this up at the behest of other unnamed Senators in the GOP conference. This, even as House Republicans voted en masse to support it.

A senior GOP aide I spoke to says Republicans aren't sure why DeMint is doing this. He says DeMint may simply want to study the issue. But given DeMint's reputation for being somewhat less-than-deliberative in making decisions, this isn't exactly reassuring.

To be clear, House Republicans support subpoena power for the commission, so this isn't on them. But it's hard to see how DeMint is helping Republicans make the case that they are as serious about probing BP and holding it accountable as Issa is about unleashing an army of investigators on the White House.

UPDATE, 1:12 p.m.: Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella sends over a statement emphasizing that he's serious about holding BP accountable:

"As is the case with most things, what's past is prologue. The last time we had subpoena power, Oversight Republicans led by then-Subcommittee Chairman Issa issued a subpoena that resulted in the heads of the five largest oil companies testifying before our Committee. Should we be fortunate enough to be in that position again next Congress, we will not hesitate to hold BP or anyone else accountable for wrong-doing and to the highest standard of transparency possible."

UPDATE, 2:47 p.m.: Senate Republicans have decided to lift the block and let the legislation proceed.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 1, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Climate change , House Dems , House GOPers , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans  
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Next: Good: Senate GOP will lift block on subpoena power against BP

Comments

Seems like this is more fuel for campaign ads in the fall. Here's hoping Dems leverage it.

I'd be in deep despair about November were it not for the apologies, the insect analogy, and now this.

Posted by: CTVoter | July 1, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable. These fools never cease to amaze at how transparently they act against the best interests of America.

Ditto that on this story:

* Louisiana Governor Seals Oil-Spill Records *

But elected officials in Louisiana and members of the public seeking details on how Mr. Jindal and his administration fared in their own response to the disaster are out of luck: late last week the governor vetoed an amendment to a state bill that would have made public all records from his office related to the oil spill.

The measure was proposed by Senator Robert Adley, a Republican, and easily passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature. He told the Associated Press that the veto was a “black eye” on the state. “This governor has opposed transparency for the three years he’s been in office,” he said.

In his veto letter, the governor asserted that opening the records could give BP and other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon blowout an advantage in future litigation over damages to the state.

“Such access could impair the state’s legal position both in responding to the disaster that is unfolding and in seeking remedies for economic injury and natural resource damage,” Mr. Jindal wrote.

But Zygmunt Plater, a law professor at Boston College who served as chairman of an Alaskan legal task force after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, called the governor’s legal rationale flawed, particularly in regard to tallying environmental damage.

“It’s extremely difficult for me to see why natural resource claims would be at all compromised,” he said. “The natural resource damages part of that makes no sense to me.

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/a-governor-seals-oil-spill-records/

Republicans are THE WORST..........

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Where is that bill (or whatever it is) in the Senate that was supposed to do away with secret holds?

Sponsored by Klobuchar I think?

Senate arcana has got to go. It's worse than the House of Lords.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

And Greg: Not satisfied with paralyzing the Presidential commission, Mary Landrieu is creating a Congressional commission stocked with Big Oil insiders. Yes indeed, let's have Big Oil investigate itself because it worked so well when we let them regulate themselves. If Big Oil committed crimes no doubt it will prosecute itself and put itself in prison. Oh, and while we're at it, let's make sure the presidential commission -- the one co-chaired by former senator Graham of FL and Bush's EPA director -- doesn't have any subpoena power, just to guarantee that Mary Landrieu's Big Oil Commission has no competition. So let's see: we have Mary Landrieu's Big Oil Commission and then we have senators like Landrieu preventing the Presidential Commission investigation from taking place. With any luck, we'll be back at Drill Baby Drill in no time. Mary Landrieu is truly a credit to her state (what's left of it).

Posted by: wbgonne | July 1, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

where is that landrieu thing, wbgonne?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 1, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Greg: Here is the Landrieu link:

http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/106603-senate-panel-approves-creation-of-competing-gulf-oil-spill-commission

Posted by: wbgonne | July 1, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

And finally, the NY Times manages to put the blame exactly where it belongs with this headline:

Senate G.O.P. Again Kills Jobless Aid

Sadly, for the Times, it was an Associated Press piece. In every mention of this bill, the Times has described it as "Democrats fail to pass unemployment benefits", and there's no mention of the f word.

Posted by: CTVoter | July 1, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't worry too much about Issa - it doesn't seem likely to me that the GOP will take back the House.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 1, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

On a related but not immediately apparent why note, it's about time we gave John McCain credit for wrecking the United States. Instead of picking Lieberman as VP, which would have made the election and the current national discussion a debate between Moderate Republicans and Progressive Democrats, McCain cynically went for the NutJob Wing of the GOP when he picked Palin. That meant the election turned out to be a "debate" between the Extreme Far Right and Moderate Democrats. Even after the election, McCain could have contributed to the healing and progress of the nation. But when Obama extended his hand McCain smacked it, thereby setting the GOP on its TeaNut course and making governance effectively impossible. John McCain: Once a Great American now a craven hack.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 1, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

CT -- that's dreadful. really sad.

and thx wbgonne.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 1, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

unnamed repub senators, secret holds - cowards all.

Posted by: amkeew | July 1, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Check this out:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/06/28/96667/cartoons-for-the-week-of-27-june.html

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

When was mccain ever a great man, let alone a great american ? He was and is just another corrupt senator with no temperament or grace needed of a public official.

Posted by: amkeew | July 1, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Also, if you didn't catch it on Olbermann here is the amateur video of the Gulf Oil Disaster. 10 minutes tells more than 2 months of official BS. Scan down to BPSlickCoversDolhinsandWhales. Fast forward through the editorializing if you wish. Either way, absolutely stunning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJRb6NtpcS0

Posted by: wbgonne | July 1, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Jim Demint for proving whose side you're on.

Posted by: SDJeff | July 1, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Wrong link (different video by the same guy). Here is the one I meant:

http://bpoilslick.blogspot.com/

Posted by: wbgonne | July 1, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

BG, re other thread--you need to send Greg your email address.

Posted by: AllButCertain | July 1, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

ABC, gotcha.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 1, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Issa is a camera-loving blowhard.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | July 1, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Be nice if some enterprising journalist (they still have those, don't they) would get DeMint on the phone and demand to know the names of the Republicans on whose behalf DeMint purports to be acting.

Posted by: RoguePlanet | July 1, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

All, DeMint says he'll lift the block:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/07/senate_gop_will_do_right_thing.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 1, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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