Obama Sending Congress Oil Spill Recovery Package

Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:19am

Updated: 6:57 p.m.

The White House is sending a $118 million legislative package to Congress that would create a new category of unemployment assistance for people affected by the Gulf oil spill and allow lawmakers to determine how high to raise the liability cap on BP, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

Among its provisions, the bill would update current statutes relating to caps on damages, provide aid to fisheries, grant up to 26 weeks of employment and food assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of the spill, provide funds for increased inspections of seafood and give new authority to agencies to deal with similar disasters.

President Barack Obama will press Congress to pass the package in the next few weeks and administration officials are eyeing “a number of vehicles moving in this work period,” Jeff Liebman, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said during a conference call with reporters.

“The Hill has been notified this legislation is coming shortly,” Liebman said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to move this as quickly as possible.”

Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, said the administration is not coming up with a fixed liability cap because Congress needs to weigh in. “We will be working with them to determine what the right number is,” she said.

Officials emphasized that the bulk of costs associated with the package will be billed to BP and other responsible parties. They also pointed to indications of bipartisan support for the package.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide was unaware of when the bill would come to the floor.

A House Democratic leadership aide said party leaders received legislative language Wednesday afternoon. “The leadership and committees of jurisdiction are reviewing the proposal. We hope to move forward expeditiously,” the aide said.