RAISING THE PROSPECT OF PUSHING BP ‘OUT OF THE WAY’…. For a month now, federal officials and BP have been acting as reluctant partners in addressing the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The angle that the administration has pursued has been that the oil company created this mess, so it’s inclined to have the oil company take the lead in addressing it*.

Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, I believe for the first time, raised the specter of removing the ineffective and unreliable company from its role in the response.

“I am angry and I am frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this well from leaking and to stop the pollution from spreading. We are 33 days into this effort and deadline after deadline has been missed,” Salazar said at a press conference after meeting with BP officials in Houston.

Salazar noted that officials from the Energy Department and other federal agencies are involved in the effort to end the leak from BP’s undersea well and contain the spreading pollution.

BP is the party responsible for the spill, but Salazar did not rule out a federal takeover.

“With respect to the rest of the responses, including keeping the oil from coming near shore and onshore and dealing with those ecological values, BP, again, is the responsible party and is on the hook for doing everything that needs to happen,” Salazar said.

“If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately and we’ll move forward to make sure that everything is being done to protect the people of the Gulf Coast, the ecological values of the Gulf Coast, and the values of the American people,” Salazar added.

The cabinet secretary was not specific as to what would force BP out, but Salazar added that he’s “not completely” confident in the oil company’s efforts, which is one of the reasons why the administration has so many top officials and departments on hand to oversee the response.

In the meantime, the EPA told BP late last week to start using a less-toxic chemical dispersant to break up the oil in the Gulf. Over the weekend, the company responded, “No.” The administration, in turn, is “evaluating all legal options.”

As for the next move, the new plan to address the still-gushing oil leak is what’s called a “top kill,” which involves shooting heavy mud and cement at the breach. That effort will reportedly get underway on Wednesday morning.

* One assumes that if the administration had immediately done the opposite, forcing BP out and putting officials in charge of the entire response, the same conservative Republicans who are complaining now would be howling about a “government takeover,” and a heavy-handed federal government wasting tax dollars, when it should leave this to private enterprise.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.