Posted by Matt Dempsey

More Mixed Messages from Democrats on Liability Caps - Now Senator Kerry Says Unlimited Unlikely



AL HUNT: And what do you think the Senate will do on the oil, on the cap, the liability cap on oil? Something that is really-

SEN. KERRY: Well, I think we ought to look -

AL HUNT: Will you eliminate it or just raise it?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I think we ought to raise it.

AL HUNT: And raise it to what?

SEN. KERRY: Oh, I’m not going to throw out a casual number, but I think we ought to find out what the political market here and the Senate will bear and get to a realistic figure.

AL HUNT: Okay.

SEN. KERRY: But I think most people agree that $75 million is -

AL HUNT: But more likely to raise it than eliminate it?

SEN. KERRY: Oh, I would think so.

Democrats on the Record Expressing Concern with Menendez Liability Bill

WATCH: Baucus Latest Dem To Expresses Concerns with Unlimited Liability - (June 30, 2010)  Transcript: Senator Baucus: I know we had a hearing on this subject, Madame Chairman. It's starting to bother me that last year, roughly, we don't legislate very much. I'm speaking generally, and I'm speaking only from my own personal experience with the Finance Committee. We don't' have any mark-ups any more. We don't burrow down and ask tough questions of witnesses, trying to establish proper policy, near as much as we used to. Rather, a lot of amendments and bills are more in the nature of message amendments and bills. And I find it disconcerting. I know there was a hearing on this subject, regrettably I wasn't here for that hearing. But I do have some concern about a total removal, a total unlimited liability.

Congress Daily: Democrats on the Record Expressing Concern with Menendez Liability Bill (Wednesday, May 26, 2010) - Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Salazar told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the White House and Congress need to work in bipartisan harmony to determine how much more companies should pay for damages linked to a major oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. The same day, President Obama sent a more pointedly partisan message to Senate Republicans. Obama released a statement while Salazar was still testifying accusing Republicans of engaging in "special-interest politics" in rejecting attempts by some Senate Democrats to increase a $75 million liability cap to $10 billion. Salazar had reminded two Senate panels just hours earlier that Obama had sent legislation to lawmakers the prior week, saying more work was needed to specify how much liability limits should be raised.

WATCH/READ: Begich Echoes Murkowski/Inhofe/Salazar Concerns on Menendez Bill

WATCH/Read: Landrieu on Raising Liability Caps

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “But The Question Of This Liability Issue Going Forward -- I Want To Commend You [Sec. Salazar] For Taking Your Time To Decide On The Right Answer, Because If We Don't Do This Correctly, We Could Put Independent And Smaller Companies That Employ 1.8 Million People In This Country At Risk, If This Issue Isn't Handled Correctly. So With All Due Respect To My Colleague, Who I Have The Utmost Admiration For, Senator Menendez And Others That Are Calling For Unlimited Liability, It Will Put Out Of Reach The Possibility For Insurance, Which Is Extremely Important For This And Any Industry To Have To Operate. So It Has To Be Done In The Right Way, And I Thank You For Taking Your Time On The Details Of That.” (Energy And Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10) 

THE HILL: Salazar says Dem bill to raise oil company liability could hit smaller drillers - Senate Republicans may have gained an unexpected ally in their battle against a Democratic bill to raise the cap on oil company liability for offshore spills: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Twice in recent days, Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to win quick passage of legislation that would raise the economic damages cap from $75 million to $10 billion. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) -- who have blocked the Democratic bill -- argue that a cap too high would make it financially impossible for smaller and independent oil-and-gas companies to operate offshore. Salazar made a similar argument before a Senate panel Tuesday. "You don't want only the BP's of the world to essentially be the ones that are involved in these efforts," he told Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) during a hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill held by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Washington Independent - Obama Administration Wants It Both Ways on Gulf Spill Liability (5/19/10) - There have been plenty of headlines generated by President Obama's apparent criticism of Senate Republicans for blocking legislation to raise the oil spill liability cap. The implication has been that Obama supports the Democrats' proposal, which would hike the cap from $75 million to $10 billion. Not so. Testifying before Congress yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers that the administration supports lifting the cap, but the $10 billion figure is "inadequate." And by "inadequate," he didn't mean that it's too low (some have suggested that there should be no liability cap at all), he meant that it's too high. Lawmakers, he said, have to be "thoughtful" not to impose a cap that pushes smaller oil companies out of business just because they can't afford the drilling insurance.

WATCH: Inhofe-Salazar Share Concerns About Menendez Bill at EPW Hearing

WATCH: Salazar Shares Inhofe Concerns on Liability


KEN SALAZAR, Secretary Of The Interior: “[I]t Is Important That We Be Thoughtful Relative To That, What That Cap Will Be, Because You Don't Want Only The B.P.s Of The World Essentially Be The Ones That Are Involved In -- In These Efforts, That There Are Companies Of -- Of Lesser Economic Robustness.” (Energy And Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10) 

KEN SALAZAR, Secretary Of The Interior: “The President Has Sent A Request To The Congress To Lift The Amounts On The Liability Limitation, But That Exact Amount Should Be -- Should Take Into Consideration The Kinds Of Facts That You Are Alluding To Here, Senator Inhofe, and so that's why the administration will engage with the congress and will figure out where the appropriate limit should be set. That's why there was not a specific number that was sent forth.” (Environment And Public Works Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10)