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.
Washington (CNN) – The Democratic National Committee is taking their campaign against Texas Rep. Joe Barton to cable TV.
A top DNC official said the committee will begin running a political commercial as early as this weekend on national cable television that says "Republicans apologizing to BP? Tell Republicans: Stop apologizing to big oil."
The senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee ignited a political firestorm Thursday, during questioning of BP chief Tony Hayward, when he called BP's agreement to set up a $20 billion fund for spill victims "a shakedown" by the Obama administration. And Barton apologized to BP.
Barton's remark drew immediate criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans. Barton later retracted his apology to BP and said he was sorry for using the term shakedown.
Read the script after the jump:
(CNN) - Rep. Jo Bonner called on fellow Republican Rep. Joe Barton to step down as ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Friday following the Texas Republican's controversial statements to BP chairman Tony Hayward on Thursday.
"Earlier this morning, Rep. Barton called me to offer his personal apologies for any harm that his comments might have caused," said Bonner, whose district covers much of Alabama's coastline.
"It takes a big person to admit they were wrong and I appreciated Joe's call," Bonner continued. "However, as I told him, I believe the damage of his comments are beyond repair and, as such, I am today calling on Joe to do the right thing for our conference and immediately step aside as Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee."
"Joe's comments were stupid and extremely insensitive to the hundreds of thousands of people who live along the Gulf Coast," Bonner added.
Columbus, Ohio (CNN) - The White House on Friday continued its assault on controversial comments made by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
At a hearing on Capital Hill Thursday, Barton apologized to BP executives and said that the White House was trying to "shakedown" the company for a $20 billion fund to help with the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill. Barton later issued an apology for the statement.
During a gaggle aboard Air Force One Friday, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said he "saw the tourtured construction" of Barton's apology for his initial statement, calling it "an example of what some folks in the Republican party truly believe."
Burton then warned of the consequences of a Republican controlled Congress, pointing out that Barton would be chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"This is something people should be considering" during the upcoming midterm elections, he said.
Washington (CNN) – Under fire for appearing to shield BP from criticism Thursday morning, Rep. Joe Barton was told by House GOP leaders later in the day to apologize "immediately" or lose his position as the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, several Republican sources tell CNN.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, delivered the pointed demand to Barton, a Texas congressman.
"He was told apologize immediately or you will lose your position immediately," said a Republican leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The aide added, "Now that he's apologized, we'll see what happens going forward."
After making his controversial comments to BP CEO Tony Hayward, Barton apologized later in the hearing and then followed up with a stronger written statement.
Rep. Joe Barton apologized Thursday for using the term 'shakedown' regarding the the $20 billion fund BP agreed to establish for damage compensation, and retracted his apology to BP:
"I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.
"I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident."
(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.
Washington (CNN) - The White House hit back hard at Texas Rep. Joe Barton’s comments Thursday that he is “ashamed” of how the White House has treated BP.
“What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement. “Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.”
Washington (CNN) - Republican Rep. Joe Barton had some harsh words for the White House at a key hearing Thursday on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster: "I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday. 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." Barton was referring to BP's establishment - at the behest of the administration - of an escrow account to pay for claims.