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Democrats, Aiming to Show Responsiveness, Clear Oil Liability Bill

As part of Democrats’ continued efforts to demonstrate that they are responding adequately to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the House cleared a bill Thursday that will allow the Coast Guard to draw advance money from the federal government’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to help facilitate cleanup efforts.

Shortly before the vote, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) issued a statement calling the legislation a critical emergency measure that would “ensure the uninterrupted continuation of federal response operations” while making sure “that BP will foot the bill for that response.” Withdrawals from the fund are limited to $100 million under current law.

“Taxpayers can be assured that BP and other responsible parties will be billed for all spill containment and clean up costs,” Hoyer added.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), cleared the house on a 410-0 vote a day after the Senate passed it by unanimous consent. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The legislation represents a tiny — and easily doable — part of a broader swath of legislation that Democratic leaders in both chambers are teeing up in response to the oil spill, other portions of which could generate much more controversy as leaders attempt to bring them to the floor in the coming weeks.

Democrats also have proposed increasing the per-barrel tax on oil companies that pay into the trust fund as part of their broader package of tax extensions, but that legislation has been bogged down in the Senate this week and will have to go back to the House before it is enacted.

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