Vitter does not want immediate hearing on Gulf oil spill

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) Monday requested that a Senate committee not immediately hold a hearing on a massive oil spill threatening the coastline of his state.

The senator, who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), wrote its heads, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), asking them to delay a potential hearing, because he fears that it could pull "people and resources" away from the cleanup operation.

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"I ask that you hold off for the time being on pulling away any resources from the Gulf of Mexico – including individuals that would have to spend time drafting testimony and preparing for questions," he wrote in a letter to the senators. "Until we are comfortable that pulling people and resources away from the incident is appropriate and won't jeopardize the ongoing cleanup and coastal protection operation, I ask with the utmost sincerity that the committee wait at least a couple more weeks before holding hearings."

It does not appear that the EPW panel has scheduled a hearing, but the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has already pushed theirs back a week.

The spill, which occurred on a BP oil rig late last month, killed 11 and workers have been unable to stem the flow of oil from the damaged.

The disaster has caused some members of Congress to question President Barack Obama's plan to open more areas to offshore oil and gas drilling over the long-term.

It is already impacting the debate over the Senate's climate change bill, which could include revenue sharing provisions to incentivize increased offshore exploration.

But Vitter, who is running for reelection this fall, said that a hearing should occur only after significant progress is made in the cleanup and coastal protection operation.

"Every free moment should be dedicated to addressing this very significant challenge," he said, adding that the does "not make this request lightly, and I am in complete agreement that a comprehensive and full investigation is absolutely necessary."

A spokesperson for the EPW committee has not immediately responded to a request for comment.

Cross-posted to the E-2 Wire