On Tuesday evening a vote in the Senate on a bill sponsored by Sen. Schumer, Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, was rejected. Sixty votes were needed for passage, and it only received 50 D votes and 2 R votes. The No votes included 45 R votes and 3 D votes. On Wednesday afternoon a vote in the Senate on a bill sponsored by Sen. McConnell, Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, was rejected. Sixty votes were needed for passage, and it only received 42 R votes. The No votes included 52 D votes and 5 R votes. Sen. Baucus did not vote.
I am glad that they were both rejected, and I am also disappointed that only 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted No on both of these bills. Only one of these seven has to worry about keeping his seat in 2012. Now it seems pretty obvious why I am glad that Sen. Schumer’s bill was rejected. It disappoints but does not shock me that the two liberal Republicans from Maine joined with 50 Ds in support of the bill. Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Begich were quite vocal about their opposition to this bill. Some may be surprised or perplexed as to why I am glad that Sen. McConnell’s bill was rejected. Let’s look closer at the language in the bill.
SEC. 6. JUDICIAL REVIEW OF AGENCY ACTIONS RELATING TO OUTER CONTINENTAL SHELF ACTIVITIES IN THE GULF OF MEXICO.
(2) COVERED ENERGY PROJECT
(d) EXPEDITION IN HEARING AND DETERMINING THE ACTION.
The court shall endeavor to hear and determine any covered civil action as expeditiously as possible.
(e) STANDARD OF REVIEW.
In any judicial review of a covered civil action
(1) administrative findings and conclusions relating to the challenged Federal action or decision shall be presumed to be correct; and
(2) the presumption under paragraph (1) may be rebutted only by the preponderance of the evidence contained in the administrative record.
I read those details and a warning bell sounds off in my head. Under subsection (d) given that federal court cases can drag on for years and that the federal courts are populated with anti-drilling Democrats and clueless Republican judges, what does court shall endeavor to hear and determine any covered civil action as expeditiously as possible mean? Judicial review should be confined to a finite period like 60 days. Under subsection (e) “preponderance of the evidence” is a vague legal standard. This section should be changed to say that a a permit challenge can only succeed if some sort of fraud or gross error in the administrative record is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
For years, energy and environmental bills have been written by the enviros and for the enviros to block energy production. Let’s get a bill written that will produce a meaningful amount of energy in a reasonably quick manner. For me this McConnell bill is just like Obama saying there needs to be more domestic production of oil. He says it to look like he is taking the right position to get re-elected, but he knows the EPA and Interior Dept. will still keep it from happening. I do not want to back a bill with a real nice title that has “offshore production” in it if the vague language in the bill allows for no change from the status quo.
I do not condemn all the other 43 Republicans who did not vote No on both bills. No Senator deserves to be condemned for one vote only. I also do not highly praise the three Democrats who did vote No on both bills. A vote on only one vote wiil not trump a lot of bad votes they have made. Still, I do believe I should name names and list the seven US Senators who I do believe voted right.
representing South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint
representing Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby
representing Louisiana Sen. David Vitter
representing Utah Sen. Mike Lee
representing Alaska Sen. Mark Begich
representing Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson
representing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu