Sen. Vitter: Still No Urgency in Gulf Coast Response

In his prime-time, Oval Office speech on the growing Gulf Coast oil spill Tuesday, President Obama framed the disaster - and the government's response - in the language of war, talking about "the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens."

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter said Wednesday that while he was pleased to hear that rhetoric, recovery efforts in his state hardly show the military conviction and force that the president's remarks suggested. (watch at left)

"I just know being on the ground that's not yet the reality on the ground," Vitter told CBS' "The Early Show Wednesday. "I certainly want to see that translated to the federal response on the ground. Unfortunately, there, there's not a clear military-like chain of command. There's not the absolute sense of urgency among many of the federal agencies that is clearly required."

He added, "If this is a war-like response, we need to see it on the coast in Louisiana."

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf
Transcript: Obama's Remarks on BP Oil Spill
Chip Reid: Obama's "Battle" Metaphor Runs Into Problems
Mark Knoller: Obama Offers Strong Words But No Magic Formula
Daniel Farber: Obama Treads Water and Oil in the Oval Office
Pictures: Obama Visits the Gulf Coast

The Republican senator said that the Obama administration seems to understand the scope of the disaster "but it hasn't translated into that sense of urgency and that response, like in war time." He backed Mr. Obama's efforts to expedite claims payments to out-of-work Gulf Coast residents by taking control of the process away from BP and handing it to a third party.

"Time is of the essence, obviously," Vitter said. "A fishermen completely out of work it's not good if he's made whole two years from now. He needs to get by week to week and month to month. Certainly, BP shouldn't be the final arbiter of the final claim."

White House adviser David Axelrod told the "Early Show" that the president had effectively delivered a three-pronged message in his speech - that the government is going to hold BP accountable for all the damage that it has done; that it's going to address the decades-old regulatory failures that allowed the disaster to happen; and that the administration is going to push for revamped energy policy that reduces the nation's dependence on foreign oil. (watch at left)

So far, the accountability issue appears to be taking precedence, and Mr. Obama is set to meet with BP leaders today about setting up an escrow fund for claims payments and other issues.

Asked if the administration trusts BP, Axelrod replied, "It's not a matter of trust. ... It's a matter of holding them accountable."

More Coverage of Obama's Speech:

Obama: We Will Fight Oil Spill With Everything We Got
Watch the Speech
Full Text of Obama's Speech
Reaction: What Happened to Cap and Trade?
Energy Reform Remains Stalled on Capitol Hill
Fact Check: Gaps in Obama's Oil Spill Speech
What Will Happen Next?
CBSNews.com Special Report: Disaster in the Gulf

  • Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at CBSNews.com

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.