Pence pans Obama's response to Gulf oil spill as too slow

A top House Republican on Wednesday slammed President Barack Obama's response to a massive oil spill as too slow, saying that "people in the Gulf of Mexico deserve better."

But House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) stopped short of linking the situation to the government's botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

"I pray that it's not," Pence said when asked if Obama's response to the spill was comparable to then-President George W. Bush's handling of Katrina.

Whether that comparison can be made, Pence said, he would leave up to pundits.

"The American people want answers," Pence said following a House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol. "The American people know this was a slow response."

Pence asserted that Obama's response time was slow compared to Bush's response in 2005, which was panned by Bush's critics as lackadaisical, considering the severity of flooding and damage to New Orleans. On the day the hurricane hit, Bush was pictured presenting a birthday cake to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Phoenix. 

Pence argued that Obama left the oil spill to BP, which was leasing the rig that exploded, triggering the spill.

"The president did not fully respond until late on the 28th [of April]," Pence said. "People in the Gulf of Mexico deserve better."

Obama has received some criticism for his response time in the immediate aftermath of the oil spill, but the White House has pushed back hard at such criticism, releasing various documents outlining the administration's response.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in his Wednesday press briefing that Pence is "badly informed" if he believes the administration responded slowly.  

Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), an assistant to the Speaker, said "It’s unconscionable that Washington Republicans are rushing to defend Big Oil, who is responsible for the spill and clean-up, and playing politics while oil continues to pump into the Gulf. But it’s not really surprising since the GOP has been doing Big Oil’s bidding for years, keeping our country dependent on petro-dictators who fund terrorism—and reducing a crucial policy debate down to chants of 'drill, baby drill.'"