WASHINGTON - President Obama will return to the Gulf Coast next week for a two-day update on the Gulf oil spill, reacting to Americans' rising frustration with the government's response to the disaster.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday gave fellow Democrats a July 4 deadline to act on oil-spill legislation.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, asked the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to do the same. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked the board to consider the corporate safety culture of BP, which owns the blown-out well; what role, if any, cost-cutting may have been involved in well design and testing; BP's oversight of subcontractors, and whether any parallels could be drawn between the causes of the Deepwater Horizon blast and a 2005 BP Texas City refinery explosion. The board investigated that explosion, which killed 15.
Meanwhile, the cap over the broken BP wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is collecting more gushing crude day by day, but that's about the extent of the details known as authorities try to pinpoint how much oil is escaping, where it's going and what harm it will cause.
The recently installed containment-cap on the stricken wellhead is helping to limit the leak, collecting more than 620,000 gallons of oil Monday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said yesterday in Washington. Still, underwater video feeds continue to show a dark geyser.
"I have never said this is going well," said Allen, who's monitoring the response effort for the government. "We're throwing everything at it that we've got. I've said time and time again that nothing good happens when oil is on the water."
On a day when Obama said he had met with fishermen and oil- spill experts "so I know whose ass to kick," Pelosi sat around a table with the chairmen as they took turns making oil giant BP - and Republicans - the enemy. Many Democrats face tough off-year elections at a time many Americans are frustrated with the slow response in containing the spill.
Pelosi said, "Democrats tried to rein in big oil over time" while Republicans "have always protected big oil."
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said BP officials were either "lying or grossly incompetent" when they initially gave lowball numbers for the gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf.
Sarah Palin weighed in yesterday, saying Obama's acknowledgment that he hasn't directly spoken to BP's chief executive shows it "bodes well to have some sort of executive experience before occupying the Oval Office."
The former Alaska governor, who resigned last summer in the middle of her term, made the comment on her Facebook page. She urged Obama to contact experts who have held oil companies accountable. "Give them a call," she writes. "Or, what the heck, give me a call."