White House Correspondent
Hours after news broke
that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would attend a fundraising event next week in New York, her office abruptly reversed the decision, saying she would be unable to attend because "her priority has continued to be protecting human health and the environment."
Jackson had been invited to the Manhattan event, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) breakfast fundraiser, on March 12, and her office noted this fact -- that her acceptance of the invitation predated the BP oil spill by many weeks. Jackson was reportedly en route to Washington from the Gulf Coast when the announcement that she would forgo the event was made, with little explanation as to the timing.
This action comes as the Obama administration is facing sharp criticism for its handling of the spill, with detractors asserting that the White House has been too slow to take action and that it has deferred to BP on critical issues, rather than taking the lead in handling the situation.
Possibly compounding the matter, President Obama flew on Tuesday to San Francisco for a series of fundraisers for Sen. Barbara Boxer and the DSCC. One of the events was held at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty; the latter is the son of oil magnate J.P. Getty and heir to the family oil fortune. Republicans have been quick to seize on this timing as well, with Republican Senate Campaign Committee spokeswoman Amber Marchand saying, "While the president makes time to fly across the country to rake in campaign cash for struggling Democrats like Barbara Boxer, today's trip comes at a special cost for residents of the Gulf Coast region who want the president's full attention on this enormous problem."
On Wednesday, BP is expected to begin a "top kill
" procedure to stanch the oil flow in the gulf. The maneuver involves plugging the leak with a heavy fluid known as "drilling mud" and capping it off with cement to seal the well. BP CEO Tony Hayward acknowledged that the procedure has never been done at the depth of the site (5,000 feet) and was therefore complicated and somewhat risky. He gave the procedure a 60 to 70 percent chance of success