Washington (CNN) - As President Obama prepared for a primetime address on the oil spill and Democrats presided over a hearing on Capitol Hill with oil company CEOs, Congressional Republicans accused the President and his allies in Congress Tuesday of "exploiting" the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to push for their comprehensive energy legislation. GOP leaders argue the Democrats' proposals would have a devastating impact on the struggling U.S. economy.
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence told reporters, "The American people expect that this Administration will not use this opportunity to advance their liberal agenda."
Pence added, "We won't cap that well with cap and trade," referring to Democratic legislation to reduce and limit carbon emissions.
Echoing the same message from the Senate floor, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said, "While American livelihoods are in immediate danger and we watch oil gush into our waters and wash up on our beaches, now is not the time to push ideology, but to fix the problem."
But as the GOP warned Democrats against linking the oil spill with their proposals to realign U.S. energy policy–by focusing less on domestic oil production, and more on alternative sources of energy–the key authors of the climate change bill that passed the House narrowly last summer, were doing just that.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, argued at the hearing featuring top oil company executives, "Congress needs to review the evidence and pass new laws that put teeth into our regulatory system. But we cannot stop there. Our national energy policy is broken. We're addicted to oil, and this addiction is fouling our beaches, polluting our atmosphere and undermining our national security."
Another leading proponent of climate change legislation, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, said, "America must move to a safer, clean energy future so that we don't have to rely as much on oil to power our cars and our economy."
Michigan Republican Fred Upton, tried to head off any attempt by Democrats to use the hearing to push for their energy bill, which is still awaiting action in the Senate. Upton said he was "disheartened to learn that a few of the questions have nothing to do with the disaster that we're trying to solve and serve the sole purpose of scoring political points and trying to advance an unrelated policy agenda that will raise taxes, eliminate American jobs and leave consumers already struggling in this down economy with high energy costs."
Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise, who represents an area along the Gulf that still reeling from the impact of the spill, ripped into President Obama, "We must figure out what went wrong to prevent this kind of disaster from happening again in the future but the President is now exploiting our disaster as a political opportunity to advance his radical agenda that will kill more American jobs."