A pair of congressional Democrats is pressuring House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to support legislation raising the cap on BP's liability for damages resulting from its oil spill.
Reps. Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Rush Holt (N.J.) wrote Boehner Wednesday asking for his help in passing legislation to increase to $10 billion the cap on economic damages, needling the top House Republican about whether he thinks the government should be on the hook for any costs related to the spill.
Pointing to statements by Boehner saying he's not sure if the government isn't also responsible, Inslee and Boehner said, "This leaves open the possibility that you believe the government, therefore taxpayers, may have to pay for some costs for the removal and damage costs.
"We would like to know whether you will lead your caucus in supporting the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act in its current state ... as your leadership would be helpful in moving this legislation," they said.
The pair acknowledged Boehner had expressed support for a proposal by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to raise the liability cap only for BP, and only as it relates to the Deepwater Horizon spill. But they expressed worry that such a proposal would be a bill of attainder, and possibly unconstitutional.
"Boehner’s position has been crystal clear from day one: BP is entirely responsible for the cost of the cleanup in the Gulf. Taxpayers should not pay one dime," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "This letter is an example of cynical Democrats attempting to exploit one mistaken liberal blog post for partisan gain.”
Inslee and Holt also asked Boehner to clarify his position on whether he favors plans to allow for people to claim punitive damages from BP, or if he favors the $20 billion escrow fund BP will establish to pay out damages.
Updated 3:06 p.m.