A congressional hearing on foreign ships in the Gulf of Mexico turned into a full-scale attack on the Obama administration’s response to the crisis — led by the committee’s Democrats.
Thursday’s hearing came as a growing chorus of critics has accused the Obama administration of unwisely turning away international help for the oil spill cleanup and failing to issue a temporary waiver of the protectionist Jones Act. The hearing came as Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) criticized the administration for bureaucratic hurdles.
Witnesses from the Coast Guard and Maritime Administration attempted to rebut the claims, but their assurances fell on deaf ears. (Video of the hearing.)
At one point, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) became visibly upset and scolded Rear Adm. Kevin Cook. Moments earlier, the Coast Guard official came under fire from another committee Democrat for not having enough skimming vessels off the coast of Florida.
“I want to make sure we sense the urgency of this moment,” Cummings said. “We have a window of opportunity to save our beaches, save some of our birds, fish and wildlife. And I’m just wondering whether there is that sense of urgency. … When you say something like ‘We’re trying to make arrangements,’ I hate to say it, but that’s not good enough.”
Other Democrats were equally as harsh.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) stopped just shy of accusing the Coast Guard of incompetence. When Cook was unable to answer her questions about the number of skimming vessels available in the United States, she demanded he find out and report back to her.
“How many skimmers do we have? How many are assigned? How many have been offered? When and where? How many have been received and accepted? And how many are available and where? That includes the Coast Guard, private, National Guard and foreign. I mean, you’ve got to know what you have to do something,” Richardson said. “I don’t understand why you don’t have a database to know where your resources are that you can utilize.”