Oil Spill Sparks Call for Aggressive Gov't Role

The politics of anger over BP's failure to plug the leak in the Gulf of Mexico has become as toxic as the undersea gusher itself.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf
Oil Spill: One Month Later

With BP making little progress, there's increasing pressure on the Obama administration to find a solution, CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports.

(Note: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is expected to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.)

"We are drawing on America's best minds and using the world's best technology to stop the leak," President Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.

The president also announced a bipartisan commission to investigate the disaster and admitted federal oversight of the industry has been poor.

"Even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable," Mr. Obama said.

But increasingly, members of Congress - some in the president's own party - are urging the administration to do more than just continue to rely on BP.

"If the Defense Department or NASA or CIA have technologies that can help, they should use them right now," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said.

Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, who first questioned BP's low estimates of the spill volume, is one of four scientists who signed an op-ed piece in Saturday's edition of The New York Times. The scientists estimate the oil discharge "is at least 40,000 barrels and day and could be as much as 100,000 barrels." MacDonald says the government should take a more aggressive role.

"It seems BP is calling the shots even to the extent of collecting necessary data, and that shouldn't be totally that way," MacDonald said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that under a 1990 law, BP is responsible, and the government is simply assisting.

"They're responsible for the cleanup, and they have to pay for it," Gibbs said at his press briefing Friday.

Gibbs was pressed repeatedly Friday to explain why the federal government hasn't taken over.

"I'm asking why you don't take control of the whole operation," one reporter asked.

"It is their responsibility," Gibbs said.

"Does the government just stand there as a spectator?" CBS News Correspondent Chip Reid asked.

"We are overseeing the response, OK," Gibbs said.

Officials say that there's no way they can declare an emergency and take over because the law says BP is responsible. Whether the government is doing everything it can, the White House has an increasingly serious political problem and one about which they are increasingly sensitive. Now, there's no easy solution in sight.

More Oil Spill Coverage

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Crist on Florida's Beaches: So Far, So Good
Obama Creates Panel to Investigate Oil Spill
Pressure Grows for Gov't To Take Over From BP
Gov. Pressed to Act Over BP
Public Beach in La. Closed as Oil Washes Up
Oily Mess along Gulf Coastline
Gulf Oil Spill Damages Could Exceed Exxon Valdez
Scientists: Don't "Squander" Lesson of Oil Spill
Outrage Over Gulf Oil Spill Grows
Thick Oil Oozes Into Mouth of Mississippi
Live Video Shows Gushing Underwater Oil Leak

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent