Twice this month, Senate Democrats have tried to pass their proposal hiking the oil spill liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. And twice Republicans have objected, calling the $10 billion figure “arbitrary” (which is precisely what the Obama administration has called it).
Today, the bill’s sponsors tried a different tack, offering a version of the bill that removed the liability cap altogether.
It went exactly nowhere.
Objecting for the Republicans, Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) said that putting oil companies on the line for unlimited liability would push all but the largest companies out of the offshore drilling business — the same argument he made last week in rejecting the $10 billion cap. In fact, Inhofe said, removing the liability cap could push even the giants of the industry — BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and ConocoPhillips — out of contention for contracts, leaving only the big nationalized firms (like those in China and Venezuela) to do the drilling.
“If you take the 10 billion [dollar cap] off and make it unlimited,” Inhofe said Tuesday on the Senate floor, “that could very well shut out even the five [oil giants], and leave nothing but national oil companies in a position to be doing [offshore drilling].”
Back to the drawing board for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) et al.