Since President Obama took office, there has been very little wiggle room for Members of Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement. This week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee granted the President’s push for bipartisanship, ironically by creating a bipartisan oil spill commission that would compete with the Administration’s Obama-appointed one. The Hill reports:
Five Democrats joined all 10 Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in agreeing to create a new bipartisan panel whose members would mostly be appointed by Congress.
The proposal—offered by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)—would establish a commission of 10 whose members would be appointed equally by the two parties, with Obama naming the chairman and congressional leaders selecting the vice chairman and remaining eight members. The commission would have subpoena power, which the Obama-appointed panel does not.
Barrasso said the newly proposed commission—which he said is modeled after the 9/11 Commission—is needed to provide a “truly unbiased bipartisan review” of offshore drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill. Obama’s commission “appears to me to be stacked with people philosophically opposed to offshore drilling,” Barrasso said.”
One of the more contentious selections by President Obama was Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, who in a May 3 Huffington Post op-ed said:
As I watch coverage of the devastation, I am reminded of another energy story from last week: the approval of the Cape Wind offshore wind farm in the Nantucket Sound. What a contrast these two energy projects make: The dirty, hazardous fuel that can swamp local communities versus the clean, sustainable energy that doesn’t spill. If I were an official in a coastal state, I know which one I would choose. I would reject President Obama’s plan for more offshore oil drilling and I would invest in renewable offshore projects that wouldn’t harm my state.”
Senator Mary Landrieu (D–LA) justified her opposition to the President’s commission, saying, “I would suggest to my Democratic friends that if the shoe were on the other foot, and President Bush was the president and he had submitted a list of names like this to us and everyone was related to the defense of oil companies, we would say this is not fair. And I’m saying to my colleagues this is not fair.”
Senator Landrieu is precisely right. The President’s commission that he established May 21 would not bring about a transparent debate. In his book The Audacity of Hope, President Obama wrote, “Genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal.”
The agreed-upon goal is to figure out the real risk associated with offshore drilling and allow the commission to make decisions based on scientific and technological facts, not pre-determined political agendas.