Friday, October 1, 2010

Choosing Ignorance

Not Everyone Wants to Learn Lessons

National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling co-chairs William K. Reilly and Bob Graham preside over hearing
William K. Reilly (L)
and Bob Graham (R)
We need to identify the causes of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Drawing the correct lessons and crafting better regulations and processes to prevent a recurrence require a careful examination of the facts and circumstances. The work of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, appointed by President Obama, aims for just this result. Yet the co-chairs of the Commission have declared that some of the "parties" to the disaster are "hindering" their probe and have requested subpoena power from Congress so that they can complete the full report on time by January.

The House agreed, voting 420-1 in June. No surprise, the Senate is another story:

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could not be reached for comment. But the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that McConnell spokesman Don Stewart “said that Republicans supported giving subpoena power to a bipartisan, congressionally appointed panel, not a panel appointed by Mr. Obama that some Republicans view as partisan.”
The Commission's co-chairs are a moderate Democrat (former Florida Governor and US Senator Bob Graham) and a moderate Republican (former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly.) The problem, from McConnell's viewpoint, is not that they are partisan (which they manifestly are not) but that they are moderate. Republicans in the Senate are unhappy because they lack one (or more) of their own on the Commission to act in the nakedly partisan and relentlessly obstructionist way that they would do. It rankles that the members of the Commission are actually trying dispassionately and deliberatively to do the job to which they were appointed, rather than shielding the oil and gas industry in every way possible.

The public is fed up with Government, and especially a Congress that fails to do its job. Here again we see Republican obstruction not only causing the Senate to fail in doing its job, but also preventing other parts of the government from doing theirs. One can only hope that enough of the electorate, in a desire to throw the rascals out in November, will pick the right rascals—the ones the complain about broken government even as they contrive to break it.

It's also wryly ironic that McConnell thinks subpoena power should not be given to partisan panels. That's one to file and bring back out after the elections if Republicans retake one or both chambers of Congress. Between the growing size and shrillness of the Wingnut Caucus and statements by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) highly partisan "investigations" are certain, and subpoena power, at least for the majority party, is equally certain.

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