June 17th, 2010
03:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Republicans distance themselves from Barton

 Barton is facing fire from a string of his GOP colleagues.
Barton is facing fire from a string of his GOP colleagues.

(Updated with additional GOP criticism of Barton remarks and Barton's apology)

(CNN) - A string of Republicans are taking aim at Rep. Joe Barton's sentiments earlier Thursday that criticized the Obama administration for pushing BP to set aside $20 billion for damage compensation.

Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, later apologized "if anything I've said this morning has been misconstrued." Several GOP sources tell CNN he was under pressure from his own leadership to make a statement.

Within minutes of his verbal apology, Barton released a written statement retracting his apology to BP.

Mr. Barton’s remarks are out of touch with this tragedy and I feel his comments call into question his judgment and ability to serve in a leadership on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He should step down as Ranking Member of the Committee, "said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who represents portions of the Florida coastline significantly impacted by the BP oil spill.

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Putnam, another Florida Republican, said Barton "owes the people of the gulf coast an apology, not the CEO of the company that caused this mess."

On Miller's call for Barton step down from the committee post, Putnam didn't outright call for the Texas Republican to resign, but said," There are a lot of conversations going on right now."

Rep Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, also said he disagreed with the comments and added he was informed Barton was going to retract them. Scalise also said that "it's not my decision to make" if Barton remains in his leadership position.

House Minority Leader John Boehner also added his voice to the GOP chorus disagreeing with Barton's comments.

"I have said since the beginning that BP ought to be held responsible for every dime of this tragedy," the Ohio Republican said. "They ought to be held accountable to stop the leak and get it cleaned up as soon as possible."

The uproar came hours after Barton expressed regret to BP Chairman Tony Hayward that the company was forced to set aside the massive sum of money in an escrow account to pay for future claims arising from the oil spill.

"I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday," he said during a congressional hearing in which Hayward was testifying. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown – in this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement Thursday that "members from both parties should repudiate [Barton's] comments."

Vice President Joe Biden also took aim at Barton Thursday, calling his comments "incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch."

Some Republicans however have expressed sentiments similar to Barton’s. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Rep. Michele Bachmann called the escrow fund “extortion.” And Rep. Tom Price said in a statement that President Obama has “no legal authority” to force BP to set aside a damage fund.


Filed under: Energy • GOP • Joe Barton • John Boehner • Popular Posts
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. HLZBRO

    he should go take a long swim in the Gulf...

    June 17, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. Otto

    Was he technically asking BP for several million for his re-election? That was the most outrageous statement an elected official can make of this grave situation. Would he prefer the people of the Gulf coast die of hunger? What was he thinking? The Exxon tragedy took years before anyone received a penny. He must be in bed with BP.

    June 17, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  3. once upon a horse

    Now will they go after Michelle Backmann too that basically said the same thing? Or would that consider being SEXIST??

    June 17, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    Any GOP'er that spouts now needs to be tailed and forced to follow up with their comments in terms of the moron Barton. They can say anything now to give their "faux outrage" but talk is cheap. DO something about it and forget the lip service

    June 17, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. tony tran

    Rep. Joe Barton made an extremely poor judgement in his support & sympathy for BP. As a recipient of millions of dollars from BP, he had betrayed the American public. He owes the American an apology and should resign from his post!!

    June 17, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. joel palmer

    This is what happens when you are owned by a corporation and can't keep your yap shut.

    Barton is a disgrace but is regrettably typical of gop congressmen in that they sell their soles and forget who they really work for.

    This idiot will probably be reelected by his redneck constituents

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Rob

    They can try distancing themselves all they want. But, the GOP are in the back pocket of the oil companies.

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Richard

    Why the uproar and suprise over this comment? This has been the Republican sentiment all along. The party supports big business, big oil, greed, and corruption. This BP spill is a giant cocktail of everything the GOP represents. I would have been more suprised if Barton had actually asked tough, meaningful questions but an apology does not shock me one bit. If Democrats would line up and fall in with Obama the dialogue regarding his handling of this mess would be much different. Obama has been a thoughtful and effective leader, talking tough does not mean anything if it;s an empty suit doing the talking.

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. Jane

    He's got a point–wait till the shoe is on the other foot and an american company is doing business on foreign soil and they get told the same thing. Can't wait till congress and the president have alienated all out allies and they start charging our overseas bases in England for ever once of jet fuel, oil, and haz mat we generate and make us pay the local folks for exposing them to the hazards.

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Bill

    In a word, Disgraceful.

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  11. Sybil Fawlty

    Don't tell me that people are surprised that a Republican said something insensitive!

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. BradKT

    Republicans are running away from this ignorant fool as fast as they can. Apologize to BP? For what? You've got to be kidding me!

    President Obama didn't force BP to do anything. BP could have just said "see you in court" and the only thing that anyboday could have done is just go to court and sue them. BP set up this escrow fund and suspended its next dividend payment for its own PR purposes. President Obama had no power to make them do that. The only power that President Obama had was the power of public opinion on his side...and the vast majority of Americans believe that he hasn't been hard enough on BP.

    This anti-Obama fervor of the far right isn't even logical. If President Obama does something...anything...they are against it. It doesn't even matter if it is something that would benefit them...like, for example, this $20 million escrow fund that BP is setting aside to compensate the victims of this oil spill.

    June 17, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Sean

    This guy is saying exactly whats on his mind and hes getting censored for it?? You know damn well that 99% of the Gop bows to big oil in the most dispicable way imaginable.

    June 17, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. Jon

    Michele Bachmann should also step down. She's a joke and an embarrassment.

    June 17, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. kathy in ct

    The uproar came "hours after" Barton's comments.

    Not one GOP leader in the room when he made the comments had the guts (or brains?) to speak up.

    They had to go out and get counsel, check polls, monitor responses, before deciding what to do.

    Such ethical, "do the right thing" leaders.

    They should all step down.

    June 17, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. blue

    Boy, the GOP eats their own.

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Strategic Bob

    Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the party responsible for an oil spill is liable for the damages caused by the spill, as well as for carrying out the best response possible under the conditions. That liability is subject to a cap or limit, $75M in the case of an offshore oil production facility/activity, unless the responsible party has acted in a way that amounts to criminal or exrtremely gross negligence. In that case, the limits of liability come off. Based on everything that has come out to date, it would appear that the conditions for setting aside the liability limits apply. This leaves BP liable for essentially unlimited damages.

    The people who are out of work due to this spill need help in the here and now. That help can come from one of two sources. BP can set up a claims mechanism and pay the claims out of its own pocket or the government can set up a claims process and pay the claims out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. If the government were to do that, however, the government would turn around and sue BP to recover trable the amount paid out.

    BP has made the sensible choice. Putting up the $20B as an escrow account is the smart move, both financially (pay legitimate claims now or pay three times that amount later). It is also the smart move from a business perspective. if BP were to pull the same trick that EXXON did after the EXXON VALDEZ – make lots of empty promises and then fight in court to get out of making its victims whole – then BP would probably never sell another gallon of gas in this country.

    Obama did nothing wrong here. And shame on Rep Barton for suggesting otherwise.

    Beyond that, Rep Barton is simply adhering to the same old intellectually and morally bankrupt GOP philosophy of governence based on the beliefs that all government is bad, the private sector can always be trusted to do the right thing and the best thing government can do is "Trust, but don't even think of trying to verify."

    Well, how well did that approach work out for us in the financial sector? How about in the Gulf of Mexico? How about in Iraq where Halliburton and others received many billions of dollars to do work that was either never done or was done so badly that US soldiers got electrocuted in the shower, that fecal matter dripped out of light fixtures, that...well, you get the idea? And how about FEMA standing around unperturbed while more than 1,500 US citizens died in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina?

    That is the kind of government the GOP wants and it is the kind of government they gave us. I am not a Democrat, but i will never again vote for a Republican so long as they remain dedicated to incompetence in government.

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  18. Tam

    does he have enough rope?

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. Debbie from Arizona

    When I heard Mr. Barton's comments this morning, I thought at first, I must have misheard what this man said. Good God, what a dunce. I wonder if the tide was flowing west instead of east and hitting Texas, if he would call this a shame. I think not. As far as any statement Bachmann makes, well that's just par for this lunitic. These Republicans are sure showing whose pocket they are in. What a terrible disgrace. I, as an American, and totally ashamed of all of them.

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. blancheispoison

    Look at who gave money to Barton. Did he not think anyone would mind his comments or see his motivation? What a moron.

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. iListen

    WOW! Here is the U.S. suffering with our economy, Louisiana is still recovering from Katrina and Barton wants to give BP a break? BP is completely responsible for the catastrophe. You can point fingers at the MMS Dept, but at the same time, it was BP who were initiating the bad practices, providing resorts, sex, and drugs. All for the sake of profits and not safety nor the environment. Who does Barton want to pay for this continous oil spill? America? We already are and will continue to have to for many years. How long will BP be held responsible? Or is the 20 billion the end of support from BP? Barton is completely out of touch. Even more important, who is Barton supporting, what lobbying group, are asking/requiring Barton to make such a statement? What is his motivation?

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. Eric

    Apparantly, telling the truth is a crime in a time when bull$h!t artists run the scene.

    It IS a slush fund, and it IS a shake down.

    BP could just as easily pay clean-up damages as they go along.

    Now we get a government controlled slush fund, controlled by the same nefarious Congressional pirates who have plundered and bankrupted social security these past 80 years.

    Expect three things: rampant fraud, inefficiency and waste.

    Further, where does the Constitution grant the executive branch authority to plunder and shakedown any privately-owned business? I guess the Constitution is an afterthought in an age when prominant TV talking heads are asking, "When can Obama go into fullblown dictator mode?"

    For shame.
    Jefferson warned us.
    Surely he rolls in his grave at what we have allowed the statists to do to our free republic, the amazing inheritance for which he sacrificed so much.

    June 17, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. jackkooreman

    I thought that I had seen it all but I had not. I can't believe that Barton apologized to BP. He is so out of touch with how any real person feels about this. He cares that much more about a Major Corporation than thousands whose lives have been destroyed. I used to be Republican – it is this kind of stupidity that drove me away.

    Rep Barton – Please retract what you said then resign.

    June 17, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. rs

    Barton (like most Republicans) is anti-American. He should try the hospitality of Gitmo for that comment. The gulf has been destroyed by BP- and he sides with them OVER the damage done to OUR environment and OUR citizens. BP over the "little people" indeed. What a stunning insult!

    June 17, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  25. James

    The only difference between Barton and the rest of the GOP, is Barton came right out on it. The rest of them agree – they just know better than to say so....

    June 17, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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