WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. lawyer overseeing the $20 billion BP fund to compensate Gulf Coast residents for oil spill-related losses promised prompt payment.
"The president of the United States has instructed me: Get these claims paid, get them paid quickly," Kenneth Feinberg said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I must make sure that this $20 billion fund provides for prompt payment, full compensation," Feinberg said. "It's an independent program. I'm not beholden to the administration. I'm not beholden to BP."
Feinberg, who also handled claims of some Sept. 11 victims' families, said Congress could take "valuable guidance" from those terror-related claims.
With fisheries closed and tourism season bookings down in the gulf, Feinberg said the first payments would go to those with immediately provable losses caused by the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Feinberg, tapped by President Barack Obama to oversee the fund, said BP has paid out about $100 million in claims under the victims' program.
Feinberg took issue with Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton's assertion -- later rescinded -- that the compensation fund resulted from a "shakedown" by the White House.
"We can do better and we can do quicker," Feinberg said, "but I don't think it helps to politicize this program. These people in the gulf are in desperate straits. … As in these other (victims' compensation) programs I have done, I think it is pretty important to try and keep it bipartisan."