Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) wanted to fly 10 lawmakers down to the Gulf of Mexico to see the damage caused by BP’s gigantic oil spill first hand.
House Democrats said no.
Scalise’s trip was rejected for a variety of bureaucratic and logistical reasons, but it has also opened a new vein of partisan squabbling over who should be allowed to arrange a trip to view the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Republicans want to be able to take trips using their office spending allowance. But Democrats have heard from the Department of Homeland Security, which has asked that Congress organize trips through committees of jurisdiction, to avoid having to cater to a ton of individual lawmakers in a disaster zone, Democratic aides say. GOP leaders say they’ve heard nothing of this.
The squabbling over who gets to travel to the Gulf on whose dime is the latest sign that congressional oversight of the oil spill oversight from Capitol Hill has been bogged down by partisanship. Congress has held upwards of 20 hearings on the disaster, often duplicative ones each week, as lawmakers struggle to grasp and fully realize the scope of BP’s giant oil spill.
Scalise, who has already been to the Gulf on another codel, wants to organize a trip so lawmakers can fully grasp the impact before they vote on oil drilling regulations. And he doesn’t want to do it through a committee, because the members don’t fit neatly into specific panels — they stretch across committee, and even partisan, lines.
About two weeks ago, Scalise requested to be able to use his Members Representational Allowance – a fund typically reserved for office expenses and travel back to the district – to go to the Gulf with a group of about 10 other lawmakers.
He sought permission from the House Administration committee, which regulates office account spending and would have to approve the trip. After a few weeks, Scalise was ping-ponged between several committees. Eventually, John Lawrence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) chief of staff, told Scalise’s chief that “it was unlikely that the request would be granted” by the House Administration Committee.
Republicans, however, say Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.), who chairs the committee, has approved at least a dozen such trips in 2009 alone – something Democrats don’t deny.
“Unless there is some extraordinary reason to prohibit this trip – which has yet to be communicated to us – this is an unacceptable departure from past practices,” said Rep, Dan Lungren of California, the top Republican on the administration committee. “This is an educational trip for members using their own representational budgets to see, first-hand, the devastating impact of the Gulf spill. Our travel regulations permit this type of travel in support of our official representational duties, and unfortunately, this disaster is already having environmental and economical implications for the entire country – not just those districts represented by Members sitting on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”
Republicans say that Democrats are just trying to shield lawmakers from going to see the damage in the Gulf.
“Every Member should see the result of eight years of failed Bush-Cheney energy policies that have done nothing to secure our energy future,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.
So for now, the Scalise visit remains unscheduled.
What a bunch of bull! Pelosis can fly all over the place with two or more jets on tax payers dime and our congress people are not allowed to go see the oil spill. Dems have waaaaay to much control. JUST GO! Forget these corrupt leaders. JUST GO! Some one needs to start standing up to these power hungry upcoming dictators!