The matter came up on the CLEAR Act bill, H.R. 3534, which presumes to deal with energy policy in a wide ranging fashion. Essentially, Melancon, running against incumbent Republican Sen. David Vitter this fall, got approved with almost no GOP a support an amendment that would nullify the Jul. 12 declaration by Energy Secretary Ken Salazar that imposed the moratorium, but it also allowed the official the authority to impose a case-by-case refusal to allow permits regardless of whether they passed other requirements on the basis of protecting “based on the threat of significant, irreparable or immediate harm or damage to life, property, or the marine, coastal or human environment.”
In other words, this codifies power that Salazar has asserted he has, but which twice was denied his by the courts as an impermissible overreach of this authority as exists under current law. Melancon actually didn’t have such language in his original amendment but it was added at the behest of the Rules Committee, which determines what amendments may be offered in floor debate – one of the most influential in the House of Representatives and tightly controlled by the majority Democrat leaders.
Forced to accept this, Melancon tried to obscure this import by articulating the ruse that the language was like that of Vitter’s S. 3588. But while Vitter’s bill like Melancon’s amendment does say the Secretary “shall make a determination on whether to issue the permit,” it does not add the other language. That is, Vitter’s language does not change the judicial rulings against Salazar’s arbitrary use of power, but Melancon’s amendment’s language does.
Further, Melancon claims he meant to offer an amendment even more unambiguously against saving the moratorium by killing it, but was prevented from doing so by GOP objections. Still, Melancon had a chance to demonstrate he was undeniably against the present politically-based and judicially-voided moratorium when Rep. Bill Cassidy asked for reconsideration of the passed amendment, substituting language that specifically negated the reissued moratorium. Instead, Melancon spoke against the substitute and thereby implicitly in favor of his language which would codify this power, and backed it up by voting to refuse to recommit, contrary to the rest of the state’s delegation.
To summarize, under present law by following certain steps the secretary can make rulings such as a moratorium. Twice, courts have found he did not. The language that Melancon proposed and defended by word and deed removes the specific, illegal moratorium at present but places new avenues into law that, contrary to the present, permit politicized moratoria (by the aggregation of continued specific denials) to be issued that quickly could reinstate the existing one, and then resisted a chance to alter it. It is disingenuous of Melancon to suggest this equates to his unconditional support of erasing an existing moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, so his claim that Republicans voted against and later criticized his in order to deny his legislative accomplishment because it might help him get elected is verifiably false.
This incident also puts to a lie the claim that Melancon makes on the campaign trail that he would be “independent” of Democrat leadership claims that he thought contrary to the state. He could have proved that by resisting their claiming of his amendment, refusing to offer it or by siding with Cassidy. That he did one thing and tried to define it as something else shows he was just playing election-year politics.
So when Melancon bleats about Republicans playing politics with the issue, understand this is a form of projection of his own actions as again he tries to trick voters into appearing as one thing while he reveals his true self by doing
Sadow is a conservative blogger. Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport.