The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio stands alone on Restore Act

9

March

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was the only Gulf state senator yesterday to vote against the Restore Act, the legislation that would dedicate 80 percent of BP oil spill fees to the region. His vote followed a warning by Grover Norquist's anti-tax group that offsets in the measure violate The Pledge.

Said Rubio, "This is no longer a Gulf Coast restoration bill, it’s a federal power grab that exploits the BP spill to pay for special interest projects driven by the usual 'what's in it for me' Washington mentality. I will not support raising taxes to pay for BP’s mess or to pay for new spending projects across the country that have nothing to do with Gulf Coast restoration. It’s unfortunate to see a good idea to help people along the Gulf Coast be turned into another Washington tax-and-spend feeding frenzy.”

Rubio's characterization that it's no longer a restoration bill stands in contrast with the billions that will flow for that purpose. Without the legislation, the estimated $20 billion from BP would go to the U.S. Treasury with no direction to spend a dime of it on restoring the gulf coast.

A sweetener, however, was used to gain support from reluctant lawmakers. Orchestrated by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., it would redirect $1.4 billion to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

That money will not take away what would go to the gulf states, according to reports. But it will come out of money generated by a delay in an interest rate adjustment for business investment. That offset was required, over some lawmakers' objections, because the BP money comes out of the treasury.

Norquist said that was a tax increase.

What Rubio saw as a "federal power grab," Sen. Bill Nelson praised as a major breakthrough.

“Today’s vote was a huge step toward making sure any fines against BP end up in the local communities harmed by the company’s oil spill,” Nelson said after the 76-22 vote. “Otherwise, the money would go into the federal treasury – and, there's no telling where it might go from there.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 2:43pm]

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