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GOP Blocks Oil Spill Liability Bill

Republicans for the second time blocked legislation that would increase oil companies' liability for oil spill damages, setting off criticism from Democrats seeking to make BP pay for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Tuesday blocked a bill Democrats have put forward to raise the liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. He said on the Senate floor he agrees the cap should be raised, but the Senate should "wait and see where the cap should be."

"If you have it too high you are going to be singling out BP and the other four largest majors and the nationalized companies, such as China and Venezuela, and shutting out the independent producers," he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) blocked the legislation last week.

President Obama released a statement saying he is disappointed by the Republicans' objections.

"This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill," he said. "I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies."

Roll Call reports that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the sponsors of the legislation, reportedly asked, "This is really about whose side do you stand on? Do you stand up with the taxpayers or with multibillion-dollar oil companies?"

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), another co-sponsor, similarly derided the GOP.

"What we're watching here is a sham," Lautenberg said, Politico reports. "We see our friends on the other side--correct that, the people on the other side... not friendly in this case, [and we want them] to stand up and say, 'Yeah. You did it? Pay for it.'"

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that a $10 billion cap is inadequate.

Special Section: Gulf Coast Oil Disaster