BP becomes election issue
The White House is relishing what it sees as "a political gift" — GOP criticism of the administration for pushing BP for a $20 billion compensation fund — and warning of the danger if voters put big-business-backing Republicans back in power.
The Associated Press
Related developmentsSize of leak: Newly released internal documents show BP estimated 4.2 million gallons of oil a day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico if all equipment restricting the flow was removed and company models were wrong. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., released the documents Sunday.
Relief wells: A crew Sunday finished pouring cement to firm up a section of metal casing lining one of two relief wells that are the best hope of stopping the massive oil leak.
Shrimp catch: Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the shrimp catch in May could be the second-worst on record because of the oil spill.
Seattle Times news services
WASHINGTON — The White House is relishing what it sees as "a political gift" — GOP criticism of the administration for pushing BP for a $20 billion compensation fund — and warning of the danger if voters put big-business-backing Republicans back in power.
With people angry over government spending and corporate bailouts, Democrats face the possibility of larger-than-usual losses in midterm elections and could lose control of the House or Senate — or both.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel seized on the words of a few Republicans in defense of BP to make a larger point about what a GOP-run Congress might do and what the government's proper role in regulating business should be.
"Do you think that BP is the aggrieved party here? Do you think that Wall Street should be left alone and not have any reforms?" Emanuel said. "Elections are about choices. Those are what is fundamental. There is a difference in our philosophies."
President Obama will speak in the weeks ahead about "these competing, different philosophies," Emanuel told ABC's "This Week."
At a House hearing Thursday, Democrats and Republicans criticized BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, for his company's actions before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster in April.
But Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apologized for the way the White House had treated BP and said the $20 billion oil-spill fund was the result of a "shakedown." Hours later, after criticism from both parties, Barton stepped back from those comments.
Barton has received $100,470 in campaign donations from oil and gas interests since the beginning of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The same group reported that since 1990, political-action committees of the oil and gas industry and people who worked for it have given more than $1.4 million to Barton's campaigns, the most of any House member during that period.
Other Republicans have sounded sympathetic to BP in their criticism of the administration. Last month, Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky, said the administration's handling of the oil spill was anti-business and Obama, at times, sounded "really un-American in his criticism of business."
Emanuel said Barton and other Republicans see BP as the aggrieved party instead of the communities along the Gulf Coast.
"And that would be the governing philosophy. And I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they've forgotten, this is how the Republicans would govern," he said.
Emanuel added: "You can say it's a political gift for us, and it is. But it's dangerous for the American people, because while the ranking Republican would have oversight into the energy industry and, if the Republicans were the majority, would have actually the gavel and the chairmanship."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," distanced himself from Barton's remarks and rejected Democratic claims that Republicans care more about oil companies than the environment.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., called Barton's statement "dumb" as well as baffling and said the congressman was speaking only for himself. "That is not mainstream Republican thought," Shelby told CBS' "Face the Nation."
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