June 17th, 2010
03:30 PM ET
10 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. Annie, Atlanta

    Joe Barton represents everything we don't need in Washington – corporate owned. There's another one I know for a fact we can add to the list – Johnny Isakson, Senator, Georgia. He told me in an e-mail that he would not support any health care reform because he had to protect insurance company profits. We need to pay attention to what these people represent (or should I say who) and vote them out every time they're up for re-election. If we don't, we get what we deserve.

    June 17, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Lori in St Pete

    Too little, too late rethugliban! Your crew believes that the President is being to hard on BP and that the American taxpayer should pony up the $$$ for damages/cleanup. Where's that endless supply of $$$ supposed to come from? Remember in November – the rethugliban are for BP and against we the people – and vote them out!!!

    June 17, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. krazykat44

    Don't you just love the way the argument is being phrased. Joe Barton is NOT saying the taxpayers should be on the hook for BP's potential culpability. He just means that it's disgraceful for all these grandstanding political know-nothing lawyers to be calling private companies on the carpet while they are struggling to correct the problem. Stupid decisions by these law making fools have laid the groundwork for the difficulties encountered by oil companies trying to provide fuel for our engine of freedom but no one ever calls them to account. These rabble rousing meddlers always act like innocent bystanders instead of the truly culpable busybody nitwits they really are. Ask yourself why we are having to drill a mile deep in the gulf waters in the first place. Do you think the other countries drilling in the Gulf are going to stop because we do? Are all you greenies going to put windmills on your cars or do you think working mothers should pedal a bicycle 10 Or 15 miles a day to work & back? At the current time there is NO alternate energy source to replace oil & we will NOT run out of it for hundreds of years. Working towards replacing it is necessary but we don't have to cripple ourselves in the meantime. Stick to your guns, Joe. Now I'll sit back & enjoy the name-calling from all the liberal geniuses.

    June 17, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. cspurgeon

    What a jerk and MSNBC reported that this fool has taken over 3 million in donations from thwe oil industry. He needs to go.

    June 17, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. Leah

    Joe Barton should immediately resign from Congress, then move to another country. He is an embarrassment to us Texans and to the USA!
    Barton = disgraceful, disgusting, un-American, corporate tool.

    June 17, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Pete in Guilford

    He was really only saying what the GOP and other conservatives have been thinking, but have been afraid to say out loud.

    June 17, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Simple Words

    So? BP and other Big Oil Interests paid big money to elect this man, and he is delivering the goods as promised. He's a rare honest politician: One who stays bought.

    We The People of all parties won't be able to do better until we demand and get election finance reform.

    (Oh, yeah, and pass an amendment to the Constitution which negates the recent Supreme Court decision equating money to free speech.)

    June 17, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Nick

    I agree with Barton – this was a "holdup" (i.e., extortion), especially since the President has the power to make life extraordinarily difficult for BP, such as withholding future leases. It completely bypasses due process as required by our Constitution. As far as I'm concerned this is extortion and the President should be impeached.

    That does not mean I think BP diud everything right, nor does it mean I don't believe they should compensate people appropriately for the damages caused. It means we have rule of law and the President and Congress are not above the law, though they requently flout it

    June 17, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  9. ja

    the money BP spends out, could go in Barton pocket, that is his real anger

    June 17, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. Andrew

    Of course Barton would say that, afterall he was a Petroleum Engineer prior to getting elected!! Speaking of which, go back and look, when he first ran for Congress he PROMISED to serve only a couple of terms-not a lifetime!! Another broken conservative Republican promise......

    June 17, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |

    I dont think they should be putting this money in the hands of the government. There will be more red tape, more paperwork, more time, and more cost to get this money from the government then it would have been to get it right from BP.

    June 17, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. lois

    You congressman are nothing but a bunch of "phoney boloneys".
    Half the population probably feels the same way......Barton is probably right.

    June 17, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. Molly Weasley

    Let's not forget the other Republicans who shared the same sentiment:

    Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour "It'll cut into BP's profits!"
    Rep. Michelle Bachmann (Miinn.) "It's a redistribution of wealth!"
    Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) "Politicization of our economy!"
    Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) I "share Barton's concerns!"
    Rush Limbaugh and all of Fox News, calling it a "slush fund!"

    And HOW much has the oil industry given to the campaign of all of these Republican lawmakers? With Barton, it's in the millions.

    June 17, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  14. cspurgeon

    He said he didn't want to live in such a country. Lets toss him out...to the place of his choice.

    June 17, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  15. hsj

    WOW! REALLY! Am I living in an alternate universe, because this has got to be a joke. A sick joke at that when one of our elected officials appologizes to the poor company who is causing the worst disaster in the nation's history!! REALLY!!! Tell that to the 11 families who have lost loved ones and to the thousands upon thousands of families that are seeing their business and employment and environment around them destroyed! ASHAMED at what the president did to poor BP!!!! When you think you have heard it all......Shame! Shame! Shame!

    June 17, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. BlueDem1

    What is sad is that Rep. Barton's remarks truly characterize the attitude of today's conservatives....."private sector is always good, government is always bad."

    Extremism has never worked throughout history....why do today's Republicans seem to think it will work now?

    June 17, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. guest

    He apologized to Hayward for Louisiana getting money from BP! Unbelievable!

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

    I wonder how much BP stock Barton holds.

    June 17, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. sleepy bear

    Keep talkin Republicans......Just keep talkin

    June 17, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    In words only - it's a proven fact that they took 66% of oil company money contributed to our politicians for their campaign.

    Boehner is heavily invested in BP stock – I'd like a journalist to report on how much of that stock he bought with BP contriutions to his campaigns.

    June 17, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. Mickey, NY

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Republican party is all about.

    To react like this to a major environmental catastrophe is indicitive of mental illness, which seems to run rampant in the GOP.

    June 17, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Independent_me

    Republican Barton, serving in a leadership position on the Energy and Commerce Committee said:

    "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."

    This is what we could have expected if Republicans were in office. Many of his colleagues, including Michael Steele and Michelle Bachman, have expressed sympathy for BP. Bush and Cheney did away with many crucial environmental regulations, the same way they got rid of banking and financial regulations. Look at what it produced.

    Here is Obama – stuck with the mess that the Republicans left him to clean up. Yet people are blaming him for how he handled the disaster. However, Obama got BP to put into escrow $20 BILLION dollars – twice as much as the Democrats were aiming for. He has accomplished more than the Republicans ever would have by doing so. America – these are the kinds of disasters that you can expect if you put Republicans in office.

    Glenn Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of the crazies will be dictating to them how to run the country... the big corporations will finish the destruction of this country that was started under Republicans. Wake up, America! Wake up! Don't let their talk of "small government" fool you...

    Small government means allowing corporations to do whatever they want...including cutting corners and destroying the economy and the environment...

    June 17, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. harold

    The Republicans with Joe Barton have revealed the fact again to make plain that the republicans just love the Corporate greed and run over the small people as BP likes to call us.."small people"...Mr. Barton is the honorary CEO in limbo for BP.. So you think again before you vote for the Republicans.. and their BP friends.. They are not going to do anything for you except REPEAl the new Health Insurance LAW and privatize Medicare and Social Security which the republicans do not like at all.. calling it all socialism......But as for BP... well....ask a republican like Joe Barton... or read what he just said..eh?

    June 17, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. demwit

    Look at those dirty Republicans! Obama has done a fine job during this national crisis!!

    June 17, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Bill

    This buffoon from Texas shows what oil money can do to our government officials. He is either way out of touch with the tragedy in the gulf or his oil money got the best of his judgment. Either way he should apologize to the American people.

    June 17, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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