In response to the gulf oil spill, the House came up with the CLEAR Act or “Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009,” which was supposed to fix problems in the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service and otherwise improve oversight of offshore drilling.
Now Democrats have stripped one of the major provisions of the bill, offered by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., which would have established bipartisan, independent, "National Commission on Outer Continental Shelf Oil Spill Prevention", comprised of technical experts to study how the disaster happened. According to a release by Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, "This Amendment passed out of Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support and not a single member of the Committee voiced any opposition at the July 14th Committee markup." The provision was also identical to one that passed the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support.
Democrats now claim that the commission is not necessary because there's already a commission set up by the president studying the spill. "We felt there were already too many other commissions and decided we wanted to strengthen the independent commission that seemed to have the most unanimous support and could deliver the most important answer to what went on here," according to Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
The trouble is, say House Republicans, that the presidential commission's supposed indpendence is in doubt. "By deleting the bipartisan, independent oil spill commission that’s received bipartisan support in both House and Senate Committees, Democrats have shown they are more interested in protecting the President than getting independent answers to what caused this tragic Gulf spill," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee. "Some of the biggest failures that contributed to the Gulf disaster are the direct responsibility of the federal government and by deleting this bipartisan, independent Commission, Democrats ensure that only the President’s hand-picked Commission will be digging into any failures of his own Interior Department appointees."
Further, the presidential comission also has no technical expertise. "To investigate what went wrong and keep it from happening again, the commission must include members who have expertise in petroleum engineering. The President’s Commission has none. It defies common sense that this amendment passed unanimously in committee, only to be deleted in the Speaker’s office,"said Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Republicans have previously complained about the CLEAR Act. Though the legislation is supposed to be about the oil spill, the Democrats have turned it into a "a Christmas Tree bill of unrelated new spending, taxes and laws," according to Hastings.