Washington (CNN) – Despite calls for Rep. Joe Barton to be stripped of his powerful committee position, House Republicans decided Wednesday to allow him to retain the senior GOP slot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A handful of fellow House Republicans wanted Barton to lose his post after the Texas GOP lawmaker described BP's agreement to establish a $20 billion fund for oil spill victims "a shakedown" by the Obama administration and apologized to the oil giant. Barton later retracted his comments after being shelled by criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, emphasized that Barton had apologized again for making those remarks and noted that the issue was now "closed."
"Joe Barton apologized, retracted his statement last week, he apologized this morning, he apologized to his Republican colleagues," Boehner said. "We should not though allow this distraction to get in the way of the real problem. The administration has no plan that will stop the leak in the Gulf and help clean up this mess. And frankly, they want to use this distraction in order to push their national energy plan, their cap and trade bill. We are going to do everything we can to make sure they do not impose this job killing tax on Americans."
But just as Boehner was trying to close the book on this embarrassing controversy, a Barton aide sparked a political firestorm when he sent out a link to an article that expressed support for the Texas Republican. Barton spokesman Sean Brown acknowledged that he had "tweeted" to supporters The American Spectator's story "Joe Barton was Right."
"Without thinking about it much, I added a headline from one of the daily news clips to a website that is, in turn, linked to the congressman's Twitter account," Brown said. "Mr. Barton was not aware of the Tweet."
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said the tweet was evidence that Barton's earlier apology was "bunk."