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Republicans Slam Reid’s Oil Spill Response Bill Floor Strategy

Republicans are not happy with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) plan for oil spill legislation — they say the leader is giving the issue short shrift. The legislation is slated to come up for debate in the chamber tomorrow, and as I reported yesterday, Reid is trying to bring both the Democrat and the Republican oil spill response bills to the floor, though neither bill appears to have enough support to pass even an initial procedural vote.

Republicans argue that Reid has not devoted enough time to debate the merits of either bills, given the impending August recess and the busy floor schedule, which includes the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. At the same time, they are angry that Reid is expected to restrict amendments on the bills.

Robert Dillon, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) spokesperson, just sent an e-mail to reporters laying out these concerns. “We’ve gone from the majority leader scheduling two weeks to do energy legislation to one week to two days to one day to a couple of hours – for a process that can take months to do properly,” Dillon says in the e-mail. He continues: “This is further evidence that the majority leader does not expect the energy bill to move forward and that this is simply an exercise in political messaging.”

Dillon touts the Republican oil spill response bill. “The majority leader can try to blame Republicans for his failures all he wants, but the truth is Republicans have offered a better spill bill that is more responsible and far less costly than the messaging bill proposed by Reid,” he says.

While the Republican alternative bill is similar in many ways the the Democrats’ version, the Republican legislation does not completely remove the cap on a company’s liability for economic damages in the event of an oil spill.

Dillon describes the Republican liability language this way: “The Republican proposal increases the strict liability cap for offshore projects through an assessment based on risk factors such as water depth and the operator’s safety record. It establishes an industry-funded risk pool, which will force industry to police itself and pay for any costs that exceed the ability of an individual company. This system will guarantee that taxpayers never pay a dime in the event of a future spill.”

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