House Republicans rejected an amendment to their spending bill that would have corrected an error that will cost taxpayers $53 billion over 25 years. Matthew Steinglass breaks down the situation more here, but the issue is leasing rights on public land for deepwater drilling. An oil company would pay royalties to a private landowner, typically, for the rights to drill on their land. The government decided to grant free leases on otherwise commercially nonviable lands. The commerical viability of the land was contigent on the price of oil, and thus the leases should not have been given out after the price of oil reached a certain point. Through a Minerals Management Service error, free leases were given when they shouldn't have been.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Markey, would have corrected the lease free error going forward. It would not have sought payment for passed royalties. According to GAO, it would netted the government $53 billion in revenue over 25 years. You can mock the original error, but to use the error to exonerate the oil companies from paying the leases in the future seems like a stretch. We have been hearing constantly about how we have to cut spending, but there are two sides to the ledger. Passage of this amendment would have done very little to help the deficit, but the revenue collected would have fully funded USAID every year, according to figures taken from the Republican Study Committee. If Speaker Boehner and his House Republican colleagues were truly serious about addressing the deficit, you would think they'd support an amendment that collects royalties from oil companies, especially since these same oil companies pay royalties to use private land.