Washington (CNN) - A top Democrat kept up the Joe Barton drumbeat Sunday, saying the Republican legislator's defense of BP last week was an example of GOP ideology that favors big business.
Republicans seeking to change the subject countered that the nation's focus should be on efforts to stop the Gulf oil gusher and critcized the Obama administration for failing to make that happen.
The statement last Thursday by Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas - which was quickly retracted under pressure from House GOP leadership - provided Democrats an opportunity to deflect growing public disenchantment with how the government was responding to the oil disaster.
Acknowledging the political gift handed to his party by Barton, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the ABC program "This Week" that Barton's comment and other pro-BP statements by Republicans including Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul would be a factor in the November congressional elections.
"In case you forgot what Republican governance is like, Joe Barton reminded you," Emanuel said, calling Barton's comments a "philosophy" that considered BP the "aggrieved party" instead of the oil giant responsible for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
"These aren't political gaffes - Joe Barton was speaking from prepared remarks," Emanuel said, calling the comment reflective of a GOP approach that considers the government to be the problem, not BP.
However, a statement later Sunday from the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans said Barton spoke off the cuff. The statement included what it said were his prepared remarks, which made no mention of an apology to BP or criticism of the fund the company created to pay for damages from the oil
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of oil-rich Alaska also challenged Emanuel's comments, telling the CNN program "State of the Union" that the White House chief of staff was wrong.
Updated: 2:43 p.m.