NSWA Join Renew
See More See More
<< Back to News

Renewed Threat to Tax Incentives

Obama Points a Finger at GOP

PITTSBURGH—President Barack Obama, facing political heat from both right and left over his response to the Gulf oil spill, blasted Republicans on Wednesday for what he said was a loosening of regulations on industry at the public's expense.

Mr. Obama did not blame the GOP for the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. But he attacked what he said was a
Republican philosophy in the past decade that had "gutted regulations and put industry insiders in charge of industry oversight."

Typically, Mr. Obama confines his most partisan attacks to Democratic fund-raisers. At one such event last week, he said Republicans were like a teenager who had driven the family car into a ditch and were now demanding the car keys back.

But Wednesday's comments came in a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in which Mr. Obama also drew attention to the Gulf spill.

Mr. Obama said Republicans hold a "sincere and fundamental belief'' that government "has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges.'' The administration of President George W. Bush believed
that "if you're a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else,'' Mr. Obama said.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), the House Republican whip, replied that blaming Republicans would not solve the
country's problems. "The same old politics that the president has been prone to engage in—like castigating opponents and mocking those who disagree with his policies—are not solving America's biggest problems," Mr. Cantor said in a statement.

Doug Heye, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said that Mr. Obama was at fault for overly
relying on government.

"The Obama presidency thus far has been defined by an absolute trust in government," he said. "Certainly,
Republicans believe in creating jobs and letting economic liberty work for all Americans. The administration
certainly hasn't done that."

Also Wednesday, a White House official said that conversations are under way about delaying or canceling Mr.
Obama's planned trip to Indonesia and Australia this month, already postponed once. The trip remains on the schedule, but officials are clearly nervous about the prospect of the president traveling overseas as oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

The administration's public statements come as the oil spill has become a defining political issue in an election year—with television images of oil gushing into the ocean and washing ashore threatening to overtake the president's agenda.

White House officials, who have held their tongues while Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has criticized
the administration, are beginning to express their frustrations. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in an interview, acknowledged the dissatisfaction of Gulf state residents, but he said that Louisiana was not implementing
its own environmental protection plan.

"As happens in any of these events, you try to find somebody else to blame for your shortcomings," Mr. Gibbs said, pointing to the offshore berms—or man-made barrier islands—that Mr. Jindal has been demanding for weeks and
received broad clearance Tuesday. "They've gotten clearance and payment to build one of these islands, but I don't
think they've dropped any sand," Mr. Gibbs said. Garret Graves, Mr. Jindal's adviser on coastal affairs replied,

"Gibbs is totally uninformed on what the reality is on
the ground down here." Another state official, Melissa Sellers, said the state has been trying to get the federal
government to hold BP accountable to build the first sand berm, and that BP had yet to give the state funding to
begin the work. "We don't want the federal government to make excuses for BP. We want them to force BP to be
responsible," she said.

In his speech, Mr. Obama used the oil spill to argue for congressional action on long-stalled, climate-change
legislation, and for his own proposal to increase taxes on oil companies.

He called for "rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies, so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development."

In February, the Obama administration proposed eliminating tax breaks for the oil and gas industry worth $36.5
billion over the next decade. The changes would target U.S. subsidies for oil and gas production, many of them
longstanding. The reason given at the time was that Mr. Obama had agreed with other world leaders to pare back
policies that favor oil and gas production, in order to improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Obama also vowed to continue to press for climate-change legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions.
"The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,'' he said.

—Jonathan Weisman and Susan Davis contributed to this article.