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Bill Nelson and Democrats say "sympathy" for the oil industry sunk efforts to raise liability cap to $10 billion

Bill Nelson and "the Jersey boys," -- Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez -- lost a bid Thursday to require oil companies to fork over as much as $10 billion in damages when Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski raised objections.

Murkowski said she supports lifting the cap from its current $75 million (which Lautenberg called a "spit in the ocean,") but contends the $10 billion figure would prevent smaller, independent companies from drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf. "What this would do is give all of America's offshore resources to the biggest of the big oil companies," she said.

Menendez noted some of those "independent" companies are $40 billion businesses. "This isn't mom and pop in the grocery store around the corner,'' he said. The trio vowed to keep trying.

And the Dems came out swinging at Murkowski. Tom McMahon, acting executive director of Americans United for Change, called it "almost unbelievable how far Congressional Republicans are willing to go to protect the bottom line of the oil companies that contribute so generously to their campaigns."