Washington (CNSNews.com) – Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Tuesday that President Barack Obama is exceeding his legitimate constitutional authority in telling BP it must set up an independent fund, not controlled by the company, for compensating victims of the Gulf oil spill. She described the administration's policy as an action "that's all about extortion."
"Private companies need to be held accountable but not necessarily to the executive branch," said Bachmann. "It seems to me there’s a misreading of the Constitution and a misunderstanding of jurisdictional limits from this White House on what the extent of executive power is. They don’t seem to understand that and it—now it seems that it’s all about extortion--and that what they want to do is create a pot of money for themselves that they can control and that’s not what the Executive is supposed to do. There is a real misreading of jurisdictional limits, and they continue to stretch those limits beyond all bounds."
Bachmann, who was speaking to a gathering of bloggers held at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., criticized the administration’s response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf.
The conservative from Minnesota said she was particularly bothered by the call President Obama made Monday--later reiterated in his Oval Office address Tuesday night--for BP to set aside money for reimbursements to victims of the Gulf oil spill that would be administered independently, taking control of the money away from the company.
“The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund, and now it appears we’re going to be looking at yet one more gateway for more government control, more money to government,” she said. “If there’s a disaster, why is it that government is the one who always seems to benefit after a disaster?”
The proposed fund that the administration wants BP to create would go to reimburse individuals and businesses along the Gulf Coast that make claims as a result of the oil spill. But the money, which belongs to BP stockholders, would be taken out BP's control and the administration has not clearly stated what due process of law would be observed in distributing the money.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified specifically to prevent the government from taking or redistributing private property without due process of law. The amendment says: "No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Bachmann said the press has not reported enough on the federal goverment's expanded control of the economy over the past two years, which she described as a “stunner story.”
“The jurisdictional issue has been, I think, one of the most underreported issues that has gone on in the last 18 months, because this is a shocking story, what’s happened in the last 18 months,” she said.
Bachmann acknowledged the problem began under President George W. Bush with the creation of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).
“Now just because we don’t own an industry doesn’t mean that we don’t effectively control it, because we are in a lot of ways,” she said.
Bachmann said Obama’s “non-stop” castigation of BP, the administration’s consideration of the escrow fund, and Democrats’ use of the crisis to push cap-and-trade legislation are all distractions from the task at hand.
“When are we ever going to talk about actually capping this hole?” she asked quizzically.
“For over 50 days, that should be the only story that we write about and that we talk about: What is the next engineering genius that we could bring on board to actually cap the hole? That’s it. You know, we can talk about restitution, we can talk about all the rest, but right now, it is capping the hole.”
“What strikes me is that it seems that every response that’s come out of the White House--and it’s in excess of 50 days--has been about the White House. It’s been about them. It doesn’t seem like it’s really been about stopping the hole and dealing with the devastation that’s going on down there in the Gulf.”
The following is a transcript of Rep. Bachmann’s exchange with CNSNews.com:
CNSNews.com: You mentioned the president castigating BP over possibly creating a fund. We saw sort of the same thing with Secretary Sebelius and Wellpoint insurer. They hiked their rates and she demanded an explanation. What’s your reaction to this pattern of holding private companies accountable to the executive branch?
Rep. Michelle Bachmanm (R-Minn.): Well, private companies need to be held accountable but not necessarily to the executive branch. It seems to me there’s a misreading of the constitution and a misunderstanding of jurisdictional limits from this White House on what the extent of executive power is. They don’t seem to understand that and it—now it seems that it’s all about extortion and that – that what they want to do is create a pot of money for themselves that they can control and that’s not what the Executive is supposed to do.
There’s a real misreading of jurisdictional limits and they continue to stretch those limits beyond all bounds. And, really, I also fault the Democrat leadership in the Congress for not doing more to hold the White House accountable to the extent of those jurisdictional limits, because that really is then for the Congress to get upset about that and say, ‘Wait a minute, you know we’re the ones that have oversight and we have the power of the purse, not you.’
It’s a good question though. The jurisdictional issue has been, I think, one of the most underreported issues that has gone on in the last 18 months, because this is a shocking story what’s happened in the last 18 months, because an economist from Arizona State University has calculated that in 18 months time, beginning unfortunately under a Republican president with the generation of the TARP fund, the federal government effectively--we have gone from 100 percent ownership of the private economy in private hands to 51 percent ownership of the private economy directly owned or controlled by the federal government. That is the stunner story that has been very underreported. Now just because we don’t own an industry doesn’t mean that we don’t effectively control it, because we are in a lot of ways -- and just with what you’re seeing happening with financial services and now cap-and-trade, that could boost that closer up into the 70 percentile. I don’t see any effort from this administration to unwind and back off of the government control or ownership of any of these private industries.
And there’s just a story that came out on AIG on how much this--the federal government takeover efforts and ownership of AIG has done to hurt the economy because it sent signals to the business community of the federal government’s willingness to cross jurisdictional lines and to--to trample in areas that are not reserved to the executive.