Rep. Charlie Melancon on the BP Hearing

Rep. Charlie Melancon on the BP Hearing

By The Situation Room - June 17, 2010

BLITZER: Joe Barton, speaking to our producers and reporters from CNN up on Capitol Hill just a few moments ago. Let's get some reaction to what's going on. Democratic congressman Charlie Melancon is a member of this Energy and Commerce Committee. He's joining us from Capitol Hill.

You're from Louisiana, you have a lot at stake, your folks have a lot at stake. When you heard Congressman Barton this morning say this, and I'll play the little clip, I want you to tell me what went through your mind. Listen to what he said earlier in the day.


BARTON: With the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation, and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history.


BLITZER: The point he's making is that it was a "shakedown." That was the word he originally used. They were negotiating what to do with that escrow account. The attorney general was in that meeting at the White House.

Was it appropriate for the attorney general to sit in on that four-hour meeting yesterday, Congressman?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: I can't give you a good answer to that, my being one of the few people that aren't an attorney, maybe, in the legislature. But what I do know, you've got consensual parties, we've got a responsible party. We don't want to see the people of Louisiana have to go through what the people in Alaska went through, waiting five, ten, fifteen years or so to get resolved the settlements on legitimate claims.

And we're already having problems in Louisiana. The ranking members kind of threw me back. It offended me. On behalf of the people from Louisiana, the entire Gulf Coast. Obviously, he needs to go down there and visit with the people that are out of work, or their business is shut down. You can go through the grocery store in Grand Island, shoot a gun down an aisle, and you won't hit anybody. That's not normal during the summer.

And the shrimpers' boats are parked, unless they were lucky enough to get their boat hired to put out boon. It's a bad situation. What was a bright spot on the economic barometer, if you would, for the United States for the last two or three years or so right now has the potential to be one of the darkest and gloomiest, I guess maybe a black hole for lost jobs if this moratorium does get put in, and it's put in in the wrong way. It shuts down. It's not going to be good.

BLITZER: You know him, Joe Barton. You've worked with him for a long time. He represents a district, I think, from Houston. Were you surprised how blunt he was at what he said earlier in the day?

MELANCON: Joe can be quite blunt, and I don't have a problem with people that are matter-of-fact. I just don't think that was a very well thought-through statement. Or, maybe, we just found out where Joe's going to work when he leaves the Congress.

BLITZER: Well, that's a serious allegation, if you think he's going to go to work, I assume you think for the oil industry. Is that what you're saying?

MELANCON: I'm not making any accusations. It's just that we represent people. I don't represent corporations. There's people that own corporations, but I represent the people of my district, and if the people of his district were hurting or potentially hurting as bad as the people of my district, I don't think he'd be making those statements just so. That's why I think maybe he just needs to maybe come back down to south Louisiana and take a look. Talk to some of these people.

Our people are hard working. There as hard working people as you're going to find in this country. It's about dignity. It's about making a living, making your own way. They fish, they hunt. I talked to a friend of mine that's a fishing guy. He's putting out boon right now. That's not at all what he wants to be doing. He may not have been a rich man, but at least he was doing what he wanted to do.

BLITZER: Let's get to Tony Hayward. I heard your questioning of him. He showed up, he expressed his contrition, he apologized once again. But when it came to substantive answers to technical questions, even though he's been with BP for almost 30 years, he really didn't have a whole lot of answers. How disappointed were you, Congressman? MELANCON: Well, my expectations weren't let down, because I didn't really expect to get much more than proforma kind of standard responses.

BLITZER: But Bart Stupak and Henry Waxman gave him the questions a few days ago to prepare.

MELANCON: Isn't that something? But I'm sure his lawyers just said, "This is what you're going to respond no matter what the question is." And that's kind of what we got today.

But at the same time, they got to ask some questions, they got to put some on record. They asked questions, members asked questions that he couldn't answer, and said OK, well, we'll let you respond to us in written form so we can put them in the record.

And then as the investigation and the oversight goes forward, there's a method of who's going to be interviewed and the questions that will get asked just to kind of cross-tab them, if you would, to make sure that we're getting honest answers when we are getting answers.

BLITZER: Congressman Melancon, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks down along the Gulf. I know how concerned you are. I've got to tell you, we're all concerned. People not only here in the United States, but all over the world, based on the reaction we're getting. We appreciate what you're doing.

MELANCON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.


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