TPM's Brian Beutler reports:
In response to a question from TPMDC, House Minority Leader John Boehner backed Tom Donohue, President of the Chamber of Commerce, in saying taxpayers should help pick up the tab.
"I think the people responsible in the oil spill--BP and the federal government--should take full responsibility for what's happening there," Boehner said at his weekly press conference this morning.
On Friday, Donohue made clear that he opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill. "It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," he said. "Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."
When I read that, my jaw dropped. Even John Boehner couldn't be that crazy, could he? So I contacted his office and asked for clarification. Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said Boehner hadn't heard Beutler's question and that he believes that BP should be exclusively responsible for the costs of the spill. Quoting from Steel's e-mail to me:
The numbnut from TPM mumbled and Boehner didn’t understand what he was asking.
Quote from me, "Boehner made a general statement about who is responsible for the spill, and the federal government oversight was clearly lacking, but he has said repeatedly that BP is responsible for the cost of the cleanup."
I then turned to Beutler and asked him whether it was possible Boehner had misheard him and what the question was that he'd posed to Boehner. Beutler's response:
Not at all. I was front row, and the question was: "do you agree with Tom Donohue of the Chamber that the government and taxpayers should pitch in to clean up the oil spill?"
It's hard to imagine Boehner answering the question if he he didn't hear it, but I wasn't there. Video would help, and it shouldn't take long to find out whether there are any recordings of this, but I suspect Boehner himself is going to need to address this in his own voice rather than that of a spokesperson -- even if it does mean walking back his apparent support for Donohue.
Update (10:39AM) -- Josh Marshall has more on the walkback and Beutler's question.
Update 2 (10:47AM) -- It occurs to me that it's sort of funny that Boehner-land is calling Beutler a "numbnut" while defending Boehner by saying he was answering a question that he didn't understand.
Update 3 (11:09AM) -- Boehner's office points to a pair of quotes from five weeks ago (a May 3 statement and a May 6 briefing) in which Boehner clearly said BP should be responsible for the costs of the cleanup.
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