Democrats refused to allow a vote today on an amendment introduced today by Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., to ensure press access to the gulf oil spill. Broun's amendment was a response to numerous reports that government authorities and BP are keeping the press away from areas affected by the spill. The amendment reads as follows:

Except in cases of imminent harm to human life, federal officials shall allow free and open access to the media of oil spill clean up activity occurring on public lands or public shorelines, including the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The amendment was introduced during committee markup of the CLEAR Act, or "Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009." According to the legislative text, the bill is to "provide greater efficiencies, transparency, returns, and accountability in the administration of Federal mineral and energy resources by consolidating administration of various Federal energy minerals management and leasing programs into one entity to be known as the Office of Federal Energy and Minerals Leasing of the Department of the Interior, and for other purposes."

“The media has a responsibility to not only accurately report the news but to keep everyone associated with the spill accountable. President Obama promised transparency, but we have seen numerous examples where that is not the case," said Rep. Broun in a statement. "There is no excuse for reporters and photographers to be denied access to public places unless their life is in imminent danger. This amendment is necessary in order to eliminate any confusion and ensure that First Amendment rights truly are protected.”

Media outlets such as The New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, and NPR have written damning reports of the government's unreasonable attempts to limit access to the spill. The New Orleans Times-Picayune was prohibited from flying a plane over the spill so a photographer could get pictures. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was denied permission to take a boat out to the spill with reporters and examine the catastrophe affecting his state. The Associated Press sent a letter of protest with the White House over the arbitrary restrictions. A CBS camera crew was threatened with arrest for trying to report from a beach affected by the spill.

On Tuesday, responding to the criticism, National Incident Commander Thad Allen lifted the 65 ft media ban for credentialed journalists. But if past is prologue, it's unlikely that we've seen the end of unfair press restrictions in the gulf.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog post described the CLEAR Act as "a cap and trade bill being championed by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine." Such legislation is being actively discussed in the Senate, and Cantwell's office writes to note Cantwell's legislation is "cap and dividend" -- a variation on cap and trade schemes where the proceeds from auctioning carbon permits go back to citizens directly, as opposed to going to government coffers. The environmental legislation moving in the house that is also known as the CLEAR Act appears to be unrelated.