Here’s Boehner’s chance

HERE’S BOEHNER’S CHANCE…. Yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) ran into a little trouble when he told reporters that BP and Americans taxpayers should both “take full responsibility” when it comes to covering the oil spill disaster. Boehner backpedaled soon after, and by the end of the day, his office had a new line: “Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up [BP’s] mess.”

That wasn’t the line Boehner initially took, but why quibble? He ended up with the right position on the issue.

Well, sort of. There’s currently a liability cap that limits the burden on BP. Republicans have fought to protect that cap, increasing the likelihood that the public would pick up at least some of the tab on spill-related damages.

If Boehner doesn’t want a single dime of taxpayer money going to clean up BP’s mess, then Dems should be able to count on his support on lifting the cap, right?

As it happens, there exists a legislative vehicle for accomplishing this. Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey is pushing a measure in the House that would lift the liability cap on oil companies — and ensure that it applies retroactively to BP. This proposal originated in the Senate, courtesy of Robert Mendendez.

Boehner’s office has not said whether he’s willing to support any specific means for ensuring that BP is held liable. In a sense, Boehner’s position on this doesn’t have any real-world consequences — only political ones. Many expect the Holt measure to pass the House with or without the GOP leadership’s support.

But Dems think that if Boehner doesn’t ultimately back it, or hedges, it will hand them a potent political weapon, enabling them to bludgeon Republicans as stooges for Big Oil.

Indeed, the bludgeon efforts are already underway. A reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this morning about Boehner’s stated intention to kick changes to the liability law down the road. She replied, “Is that when he said that the taxpayer should be paying for it? Was that the same speech? When he said BP and the taxpayer should be footing the bill? … I disagree.”

Also this morning, the DCCC launched a new website, Boehner BP Bailout.com, insisting that Boehner “has sided with the US Chamber of Commerce in declaring that US taxpayers should be hit with the bill to help clean up Big Oil giant BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

I suspect Boehner could make all of this go away if he announced his support for lifting the liability cap, just as Democrats have proposed. I also suspect Boehner, beholden to the oil industry and its lobbyists, won’t even consider such a move.