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. Obamahasbigears

    Every drop of oil that leaks from this site is representative of the life-blood of the conservative movement draining out every day. "Drill baby drill" right? Nope, better start investing in windturbines kids!

    How beautiful will it be when we see little conservatives marching with lefties to promote clean energy?

    June 17, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. Senator

    Where is the Leadership in the Republican Party?????? What if this was Texas coast line: How could anyone defend an Oil Company over hard working people who most likely are GOP-leaning. His photograph should be under the definition of just plain stupid. this is not the Party of Reagan, this is a bunch of kids in their parents clothes: They must have went to the Annual 'take your kids to work day' and never left the capitol...

    June 17, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Susan

    The US is ashamed to have someone like Barton represent democracy! He's a corporate lackey, nothing more.

    June 17, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Jake

    Of course it is a shakedown... how else to describe it? BP has said they would pay the costs of the clean-up. They have been making payments. Then Obama starts threatening BP... Gimme money now or else. So BP gives him $20 billion and Obama appoints a political crony to spend the money. I trust BP to spend the money cleaning up the mess… I trust Obama to spend the money to reward his political allies and punish his political adversaries. It was a shakedown and Obama will shake that tree until it is dead.

    June 17, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. KMAN821

    Perhaps Barton wasn't clearly heard when he spoke, after all ... it's difficult for Mr. Barton to speak clearly with Tony Hayward's d*ck in his mouth.

    June 17, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. ray

    this racists , bigot ring winger should quit now, i mean now. only when these bigots are caught with their pants down then they cry foul.

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. Michael

    Barton is ashamed that the President is standing up for American citizens against one of the most powerful and least responsible entities in the world.
    Seems Barton has a twisted moral compass: he is ashamed of a leader doing the right thing for the people who elected him.
    Maybe now Barton's constituents will be ashamed for having voted for Barton.

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. susanj

    He should be kicked out of the Congress. How unAmerican is that teabaggers! One of your own is unAmerican. Pig – Corporate Pig.

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |

    I live in his district and am ashamed and embarrassed by him DAILY! As soon as I can recover from this "Bush Recession" I will move. We all know he is bought and paid for by the oil industry and that he will vote in their defense constantly. South Carolina, you may have some weirdos but believe me, this clown is truly unique and in a class of loser all alone.

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    That's right Americans...WE DON'T matter to the republicants and their big mutli-national corportate pay masters. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Tina

    I live here on the Gulf Coast ( Florida) and I would like to invite this congressman to come for a visit, and put on a hazzard suit and walk up and down our coast or any one of the other states coasts that have been affected in 100 degree heat, then wash some birds. See if he still wants to be a spokesman for his oil buddies. We all could use more help with the clean up here. I know he would never do this but I would pay money to see it though 🙂

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  12. Byrd

    I want to know why Barton is still sitting on that committee this afternoon. He used an offricial government committee as a personal forum – as a private citizen, he stated – and, since this IS a democracy, right? – I'd like, no demand, the same opportunity.

    June 17, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. doon rothmani

    Sounds like Barton may have a brain tumor or early onset of dementia. It's hard to think of another explanation for his remarks in the face of the reality of this disaster.

    June 17, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. Bill, Florida

    And what about Michele Bachmann? She said something very similar to Barton the other day. Will the GOP have the courage to rebuke her?

    June 17, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Ken

    I can believe that Barton was stupid enough to make such a statement. I'm shocked that actual republicans had the courage to dispute it.

    June 17, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. cassamandra

    oh, please, Republicans, keep talking.... Bachmann said something similar about 'fleecing' BP.... keep it up, boys, and please do so well into late October.

    June 17, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. CNNbeatsFOX

    Rep Joe Barton's reaction is drawing ire – and that is probably surprising him. And it should. President Obama's critics have been increasingly irrational, biased, and not based on any facts since before the Healthcare debate. Barton just disagreed with Obama on the principle that the Party Line is to disagree with Obama on EVERYTHING. Facts don't matter. Opposition does. REALITY doesn't matter. Obama's failure does. So even when Obama doesn't something that EVERYONE agrees was the right thing to do – Barton and his ilk (the Limbaugh/Beck/Daily Beast/Washington Post/Fox News Ditto Heads) had already started voicing their opposition. I'm telling you, a Republican split is coming. Moderates have no place in this party anymore.

    June 17, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Diane

    This man is a fool. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of Republicans feel the oil industry shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. Even Rand Paul thinks BP should get away with their part in this tragedy. President Obama got BP to fork over $20 billion with no cap, so the total could go even higher. He also got them to set up another $100 million dollar fund, also with no cap. Mr. Barton needs to take a lesson from the President.

    June 17, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Ed

    It seems a number of repubs have much love for BP. I'm sure that's why we have not heard a peek of of the normally very vocal, very anti-Obama, Mr. Slick Dick Cheney.

    June 17, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. ann

    He is just showing the true colors of most Republicans. They don't care about the environment or the "small people". Notice the absence of "Dickhead Cheney" during this catastrophe that he and Bush set up.......................

    June 17, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  21. Dan Davis

    While I have no illusion Mr. Barton will ever actually see it, I just sent the following email to him via his website:

    Dear Mr. Barton,

    You, sir, are an ass. You represent everything I consider reprehensible about the state of our form of representative government.

    While I no longer live in Texas, I spent several years on a quiet street in Duncanville, and still have fond memories of my time there. But your apology to the CEO of BP, so egregious in the transparency of its self-serving pandering, I find myself reluctant to admit I ever lived there.

    You are entitled to your opinion, of course, and to making a personal apology. But you are a public official, you oaf, and you can't claim to be making a personal apology in a public hearing in your position as a committee member and representative and have it be taken as your personal opinion.

    Of course, you knoew that. You never intended it as a personal apology. You were making sure your revenue pipeline didn't dry up. Hopefully, one day it will, and you will find yourself in the situation of having to find new work to survive like those you so carelessly offended today.

    I personally would like to see you go spend a month doing spill cleanup, explaining your position to Louisiana shrimpers, and being forced to sit and watch a few hundred water birds slump into the sludge and die. After that, (if you are still alive after those conversations with the shrimpers), you'll have some pictures that can flash through your little brain whenever you hold out your hand for the next oil company campaign contribution.

    Slush fund indeed. Had no such action been taken, there would have been no accountability. Because mega corporations, like congressmen, do not have that particular word in their vocabulary.

    June 17, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. tom alston

    Might as well get rid of Michelle Bachman Rep. -MN and Tom Price,
    Rep.-Ga. as they feel the same way .....I'd be embarassed to havb
    my party members express these types of views

    June 17, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. Liberal4Obama

    Wow, why I'm I not surprised that republicans choose to side with corporations and defend them against the people of the gulf that are suffering due to the recklessness of BIG OIL

    June 17, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. alicia

    Frankly, I agree with Barton's comments.

    This administration is just show boating as usual and with no substance.

    June 17, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Chris (DC)

    The politics in this city and country have become pathetic. However, Rep. Barton just managed to sink to a new level with his unconscionable comments. There are those screaming for the President to do something and when he does they scream again. It is time to stop this political bickering and put the welfare of the country first.

    Rep. Barton or any Republican or Democrat who acts like this should step down. We need to get rid of the nasty politics that have consumed our country.

    June 17, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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