PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Sen. Marco Rubio said he opposes a plan that would give Gulf coast states 80 percent of the fines stemming from the 2010 oil spill because the other 20 percent will be cut up and spent elsewhere, a position that drew loud applause from a crowd in this Gulf coast city that was hit by a drop in tourism during and after the spill.
The Senate voted in March to approve directing 80 percent of the fines to restoration in five Gulf Coast states. The House passed a similar version and the differences still need to be worked out. Rubio said he hopes the House changes the bill so that all the money goes to Gulf states.
"Senators from other states come to us and say, 'Well, we'll go ahead and pass this bill where we'll let you keep some of the BP oil spill money, but only if you agree to allow us to get some of that money for the Great Lakes, for California, for other parts of the country that have nothing to do with the oil spill,'" Rubio said.
He called that idea ridiculous and said part of the problem with Washington is that other members of Congress are trying to get their hands on the expected billions of dollars that BP PLC will pay in fines.
"If the fine is due to an oil spill that happened in the Gulf, why is any of that money, why is a single penny of that money going to some other part of the country? So people came to me and said, 'Well that's just the way things are here. You're just gonna have to accept that. You're just gonna have to go along with it, otherwise no one's going to get anything,'" Rubio said. "I can't accept that. I feel like the minute I start accepting that kind of stuff is the minute I become like them."
The crowd at the event hosted by the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce gave him extended applause.
Rubio was the only senator from any of the Gulf states to oppose the provision that's part of a larger transportation bill. Overall 22 senators, all Republicans, voted against it.
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