Ken Salazar wants a pay raise, and Harry Reid wants to give him one.
But he won’t get anything anytime soon – not if Sen. David Vitter has anything to say about it.
Vitter announced yesterday he’s putting a hold on a $19,600 proposed raise for Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, because that department’s record of performance in issuing drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico has been unacceptably poor – and it’s done damage to the economy of the state of Louisiana which Vitter represents.
Salazar makes $180,000. He’d make $200,000, but because he was a Senator when the current salaries of cabinet secretaries were set he’s not eligible for the higher pay – otherwise the effect would be that he’d voted himself a pay raise.
But Salazar, who is still in contempt of federal court down in New Orleans as a result of his agency’s violating a court order to lift the moratorium, found himself in Vitter’s crosshairs yesterday when the topic of his proposed raise came up. Vitter sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announcing that he is holding up legislation in the U.S. Senate that would give Salazar the pay raise. In light of a recent admission by BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich, who works for Salazar, that his department has only issued one new deepwater exploratory drilling permit since the moratorium was formally lifted in October, Vitter said that he will continue blocking the raise until Interior resumes issuing new permits at the same rate as before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“It’s just my way of keeping the ‘boot on the neck’ of Interior until they get job the done. Surely the secretary can appreciate that approach,” said Vitter.
Vitter emphasized that he is asking the Interior Department to speed up the pace of issuing new permits and will not count the reissuance of permits issued before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but later rescinded.
Vitter recently introduced 3-D: The Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy, and Deficit Reduction Act of 2011, which would create more than 2 million jobs, $10 trillion in economic activity and $2 trillion in federal tax receipts (conservative 30-year estimates) by unleashing America’s vast domestic energy potential.
Vitter’s letter was anything but cordial, though it gave Salazar a specific set of circumstances to meet if he wants Vitter to stop his hold on the raise…
Dear Secretary Salazar:
Last Friday, I was asked to support legislation in the Senate to grant you a nearly $20,000 salary increase. Given the completely unsatisfactory pace of your department’s issuance of new deepwater exploratory permits in the Gulf, I cannot possibly give my assent.
The history behind your pay raise proposal and the insider support it may have here in Washington is irrelevant. Mr. Secretary, the fact is your polices and your department’s mismanagement of permits is causing more Gulf energy workers literally to lose their jobs every day.
Your current pace of permitting is abysmal by any reasonable measure whether based on the historical pace, based on the unemployment rate along the Gulf, based on $4/gallon gasoline, or based on the President’s claims to support domestic energy production.
In a moment of clarity and honesty, Director Bromwich testified last week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that of the 14 deepwater permits to drill that have been issued since the BP disaster, only one was for a truly new well. The other deepwater exploratory permits are actually reissuances — they had been issued prior to the moratorium and then revoked.
Obviously, this one over the last three months (the period since deepwater permitting has reinitiated) is a pace well below the six per month issued prior to the moratorium.
Accordingly, when the rate of permits issued for new deepwater exploratory wells reaches pre-moratorium levels (so 6 per month), I will end my efforts to block your salary increase.