Vitter: Democrats are playing to the cameras, not fighting oil spill

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is accusing senior Democrats of “rushing to create media events for television” instead of working to confront the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Vitter – delivering the GOP’s weekly address Saturday – also warned against using the fatal April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the ongoing spill as a reason to block future offshore drilling. 

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Vitter cited his meetings with Gulf Coast fishermen and other residents whose lives have been disrupted by the spill, drawing a contrast to what he called counterproductive Washington hearings.

“That’s why it’s so frustrating to many Louisianans that while the crisis actually continues in the Gulf – while we’re still fighting to contain the well – Washington Democratic Committee Chairmen have rushed to create media events for television cameras instead of devoting full attention to stopping the immediate problem,” Vitter said.

“I guess it’s typical of the culture in Washington for politicians to believe that they can solve an ongoing crisis with statements and testimonies in Congressional committee rooms. But the time for committee hearings is for after the well has been capped – not before,” he added.

Vitter's comments follow two weeks of high-profile congressional hearings with officials from oil giant BP and top Obama administration officials, with more on tap.

Vitter also touted legislation he introduced with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that would raise the cap on oil companies’ liability for offshore spills.

The current cap on economic damages is $75 million. Their plan would set a cap equal to the last four quarters of the responsible party’s profits or double the current limit, whichever is greater, Vitter said.

Senate Democrats are pushing separate legislation that would raise the cap to $10 billion, but Republicans have twice blocked that plan on the Senate floor, alleging it would make it financially impossible for smaller companies to operate offshore.

Vitter also highlighted other provisions of his bill aimed at ensuring adequate supplies of floating containment structures called oil boom.

“The bill would establish much greater reserve requirements for the amount of boom – capable of withstanding up to six-foot waves – and would direct work on technology to effectively cap leaks like the one currently gushing in the Gulf,” he said.

The accident at the rig leased to BP has prompted some Democrats and environmentalists to call for new limits on offshore drilling and a reversal of Obama administration plans to expand oil-and-gas leasing.

“Some in Washington have tried to seize on this real human tragedy in the Gulf to advocate for a radical new energy agenda,” Vitter said. “That only cheapens the loss of those who’ve lost loved ones and brushes aside the ongoing, unsolved problem to spring forward with an emotionally charged political agenda.”

His address also calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “work immediately with our state to build up and extend our barrier islands made from materials dredged from the immediate area – our rivers and deltas.”