For 77 days, Americans have watched the Obama administration and BP grapple with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Americans have repeatedly called upon the administration to stop the spill, clean up our coasts and make sure a similar tragedy never happens again.
Unfortunately, many of the administration's actions appear to be based on ideology instead of what's best for the country. The president's new BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission is only the latest example.
Instead of appointing unbiased scientists, engineers and drilling experts to examine what happened in the Gulf, the president appointed extreme environmentalists and politicians who've already made up their minds about offshore drilling.
Recently, Senate Democrats and Republicans took action to ensure that the American people get the full story about what happened in the Gulf. On June 30th, I introduced an amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2010 (S. 3516) to establish an independent congressional commission to investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It would be modeled after the successful 9/11 Commission.
During a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting, five Democrats voted in favor of my amendment. The bipartisan support for a credible commission speaks volumes about the lack of confidence in the president's commission to investigate the accident fairly and offer guidance to help prevent another similar disaster.
The congressional commission would include members with technical expertise in engineering, health and safety, environmental compliance and cleanup, and oil and gas exploration. The 10-member commission will be appointed equally by both parties. The president appoints the commission chairman, and congressional leaders appoints the vice chairman and remaining members.
The makeup of the congressional commission stands in stark contrast to the makeup of the president's commission. Six out of the seven people appointed by Obama have publicly opposed offshore drilling.
One of his appointees, Frances Beinecke, actually wrote to Obama on May 4 to encourage him to impose a moratorium on all new oil drilling activities offshore. She said "this would mean a halt to new offshore leasing, exploratory drilling, and seismic exploration, including the exploratory drilling that is scheduled to begin in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska this summer."
Beinecke heads an environmental group that is actively involved in litigation on the president's offshore moratorium. By any reasonable standard, active involvement in related litigation would warrant recusal.
I think most Americans would agree that Beinecke doesn't appear to be an objective observer of the situation in the Gulf.
My amendment also takes important steps to ensure that the commission would have the power it needs to get answers to difficult questions. The congressional commission would have subpoena power and must provide its final report within 180 days.
Additionally, the commission will first review information compiled by existing investigations, including the president's commission, to avoid unnecessary duplication.
The oil spill in the Gulf is the worst environmental disaster in the history of our country. The American people want answers, not another Washington charade with a predictable outcome.
On June 14, Obama said members of his commission will "work to determine the causes of the catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again." But the biased nature of the president's commission undermines its credibility.
The bipartisan congressional commission is the only way to fulfill Obama's promise to get the facts and prevent a future tragedy from occurring in our country.
As the energy bill continues to make its way through Congress, I'll continue to fight for a bipartisan, unbiased commission.
In the wake of the disaster in the Gulf, we must ensure that any future policy decisions are based on the facts, not an agenda.
Sen. John Barrasso is a Wyoming Republican.