Wall Street Journal Blog: Sen. Alexander on Oil Spill: ‘What Was President’s Plan?’

Posted on June 1, 2010

Sen. Lamar Alexander added his voice to the rising chorus of anger over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Tennessee Republican, the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee’s panel on the interior and environment, said Sunday that a 1990 law puts the onus on the president to clean up oil spills, suggesting President Barack Obama as well as BP are to blame for the failure to plug the gushing well. The law was passed after the Exxon Valdez spill damaged a stretch of Alaska’s coastline.

In an appearance on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program, Alexander said that responding to an oil spill and protecting the Gulf Coast is “the president’s responsibility.” He added: “So I think that it’s my responsibility as a member of Congress to ask the question, ‘What was the president’s plan and where are the personnel and equipment necessary to implement that plan?’”

Just how far he’ll get with that argument is unclear. Administration officials and many others outside government have acknowledged that federal agencies lack the equipment and expertise to plug the leaking well.

In recent days, however, the administration has sought to convey that it is calling the shots amid accusations that officials haven’t responded aggressively enough to what experts say is the nation’s largest oil spill.

Obama, at a press conference Friday, said it was “simply not true” that the federal government was allowing BP to make all the decisions. And White House Energy Czar Carol Browner, on NBC’s “Meet The Press” today, portrayed the government as assertive in its interactions with BP. She said the government demanded that BP halt its “top kill” procedure this weekend after becoming concerned the operation was putting too much pressure on the well, suggesting worries about a bigger blowout.