Wicker, Vitter, Cochran Ask to Keep Feinberg at Helm of Gulf Coast Recovery
Senators Ask President to Allow Compensation Administrator to Complete Gulf Coast Program
Friday, January 28, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today reported that they are encouraging President Obama to retain Kenneth Feinberg in his current role as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), without appointing him to other government responsibilities that may distract from the Gulf Coast efforts.
Feinberg, who was last year selected by Obama to lead the Deepwater Horizon oil spill compensation program, has been mentioned in recent reports as the potential administrator of the 9/11 Health Compensation Fund established by Congress in December.
In a letter sent to the White House late Thursday, the Senators asked the President to keep in place the leadership team of the ongoing Gulf Coast claims process, which was established to compensate individuals and small businesses who suffered damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The lawmakers stressed that the GCCF administration should not be distracted by additional, new responsibilities associated with the 9/11 health compensation fund.
“Too often we have to fight to make sure the people of the Gulf Coast get fair treatment,” said Wicker. “Mississippi residents and small businesses impacted from last summer’s oil spill deserve an accountable, efficient, and effective administration of claims. I hope the President heeds our call for the continued focused administration of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Mr. Feinberg should be given the opportunity to fully compensate those who suffered damages.”
“I’m disappointed that Mr. Feinberg wouldn’t definitively tell me while testifying in a committee hearing that he won’t leave his critically important post until the job was done,” said Vitter. “It is my hope that as more of our colleagues join in calling for this commitment, he will see the importance of seeing the job through."
“It has only been nine months since the explosion in the Gulf and even less time since the oil spill compensation program was activated. I am concerned that interfering with the administration of the claims process at this point would be a setback and unnecessarily disrupt the work to help those hurt by the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” Cochran said. “I urge the President to allow Mr. Feinberg to keep his focus on the timely and fair processing of claims under the oil spill compensation program.”
The following is the text of the letter sent to President Obama:
Dear Mr. President:
We have serious concerns about recent reports that the Administration may select Mr. Kenneth Feinberg to act as administrator of the compensation fund established in the 9/11 James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-347). While we do not question Mr. Feinberg’s qualifications and prior experience administering similar funds, we believe this appointment could negatively impact his current work on the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and the administration of compensation to those who suffered damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Our constituents continue to contact us regarding the GCCF’s delays in determinations and uniform payment methodology. We do not believe the GCCF can effectively address the concerns and needs of our constituents with a distracted administrative team. As with any compensation fund, the accountable, efficient, and effective administration of claims is vital. If successful administration of GCCF and 9/11 funds is the goal, then they will both benefit from individually focused leadership.
To that end, we request that the administration of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility not be burdened by the selection of Mr. Feinberg to administer the recently enacted 9/11 health compensation fund. If Mr. Feinberg is to administer the 9/11 fund we recommend that his appointment not move forward until all his work in the Gulf is complete. It is of utmost importance that the Gulf Coast individuals and businesses impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill receive the full focus and consideration of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility through the completion of its chartered responsibilities.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
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