Obama’s reason for not waiving Jones Act? Apparently politics.
I’ve been arguing for weeks that Republicans need to stop criticizing Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill, because there’s very little he can really do about it. It seems I may have been wrong. I’ve heard more and more about the Jones Act recently, and what it has to do with the BP oil spill. What is the Jones Act you ask, and why does it matter? Well, here’s the answer:
In order to accept the offers [to help], which have come from Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian firms that claim to possess some of the world’s most advanced oil skimming ships, Obama would need to waive the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (P.L. 66-261). Also known as the Jones Act, the law requires essentially that all commercial acts conducted in U.S.-controlled waters be performed by “U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.”
O.k., simple enough right? Apparently not. While Bush waived the Act to allow for other nations to help after Katrina, Obama has failed to do so. Why? The answer appears to be politics.
The explanation of Obama’s reluctance to seek this remedy is his cozy relationship with labor unions. Joseph Carafano of the Heritage Foundation is quoted as saying, “The unions see it [not waiving the act] as … protecting jobs. They hate when the Jones Act gets waived, and they pound on politicians when they do that. So … are we giving in to unions and not doing everything we can, or is there some kind of impediment that we don’t know about?”
If this is true, then Obama deserves every bit of the criticism he is receiving for the fed’s response to the oil spill, if not more. The bright side? If Obama responds to the mounting call to waive the Jones Act the way he has responded to every other criticism he has received to date, I anticipate the Act being waived any day now. Hopefully he can explain what took him so long.