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. former Texas republican

    Actually, what's shocking is that a guy so intellectually marginal can continue to get elected.

    June 17, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. C Thomas

    In a haste to discredit the Democratic President the Republican party has once again put foot in mouth.

    June 17, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Duane Schroeder

    Now you see the true colors of the Republican party, and the red state idiots that elected them. Those not in the gulf, have supported Barton's statements – once again showing that they are in the pocket of Big Oil and Wall Street Bankers. It's just amazing to me, and this country deserves this mess it is in, when this group keeps getting elected. Do you want government oversight on Big Oil and the Banking industry? Then way in heaven would you vote for any Republican? Stupid people, and they just do it over and over again.

    June 17, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Jim

    The damage to the Gulf and to the people of this country means nothing to the Republicans who believe that America is here for big business only so it can rape and pillage for all it can take. The individual person means nothing to these people when compared to the money being made. This nation was created "for the people" before there were mega corporations. Remember, "Justice for all". The government must protect the people first and foremost, along with the resources of this nation, before it protects criminal companies who have willfully broken the laws of the land and negligently killed American workers. They fight against the President when he has the guts to stand up for the American taxpayer and the victims. Remember that in November.

    June 17, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Rob

    Is anyone really surprised .The ultimate goal of the GOP is to opposed any and everything the Obama presents.They invent talking points death panels,send racist e-

    June 17, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Storz

    And people call the voters in S.C. dumb?

    Rep. Joe Barton should step down, and the voters should vote him out of office! Right along with Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Tom Price

    June 17, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. bk

    "Extortion"? "Shakedown"? Give me a break! Isn't that exactly what BP and other oil companies have done to the American people for years?Who else has made billions of dollars in profit every quarter when all other businesses and industries have suffered losses? Barton and those Repubs who side with him are showing us exactly who they are working for and it certainly isn't the American people who elect them.

    When one causes an accident, they are responsible for the damages. Obama is protecting us from BP paying out to their executives leaving nothing for the damages from their oil spill.


    Mr. Barton–go home!

    June 17, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Danny

    Dear Senators and House Representatives: Please be aware that the American people are getting sick and tired of the apologies. All of you think that when you say some stupid remark, and this is right up there as being stupid, when you realize it may cost you a few votes, you think all you have to do is say "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it in that context." Give the American people a break, you guys are really dumb when it comes to what the American people think. Why don't you use what little pea brains you have and band together to try and fix this mess? A little team work would be beneficial to see on the news instead of the never ending apologies.................................

    June 17, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. Mike Anderson

    The Republican Party is joined at the hip to Big Oil. Bush, Cheney and the entire Texas delegation have long made big money from their connections with the oil business. Cong. Barton is just another small example of where these folks are coming from. It used to be said What's good for General Motors is good for America," but now it is "What's good for BP (or Exxon/Mobil, or Shell) is good for America." Well, guess what?

    June 17, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    The GOP can ill afford to have this kind of comment being made. It is anti-citizen and pro big business. It is unacceptable, by anyone's standards.

    June 17, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Sick of the GOP

    Barton, Bachmann and Price should visit those on the gulf coast whose lives are being destroyed and tell them how they, too, should apologize to BP. Unfortunately, these morons are only interested in politicizing the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. They are an absolute embarrassment and make the U.S. look like a nation of fools. They are each, and individually, a prescription for instant rectal release.

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. GI Joe

    Where's Cheney now? He is NOT in secret meetings with oil companies this week – he was a few years ago – is he feeding Palin the snarky remarks to make on behalf of him and the oil companies?

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |

    Mr. Barton’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! comments show that we need a complete change in Washington. THIS MAN, does not have any feelings for the Americans YES Americans that are been hurt. and do not have any resources if it were not for the 20V. Escrow. You show be ashamed of your self Mr. Barton, I am ashamed that you represent us.
    I AM ASHAMED OF YOU............................................

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Tami

    Where was OSHA or the safety guys who were responsible for giving
    BP all of the fines that they recieved over the past few years? Why were they just given fines and not shut down? How many fines does it take before a company is shut down? Apparently over 700 is not enough... American lives I guess are not that important to OSHA or BP!!! I believe that our American team of Safety inspectors should be held accountable too. They were either bought off or didn't value life at all.

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Barry

    Oops! Another congressman puts one foot (or possibly both feet) into his mouth. How is he going to justify what he said? Perhaps blame Bill Clinton? That always seems to work for the far right when everything else fails.

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. dan

    Barton is one of the Lone Star state's worst representatives. I am not surprised by his comments, (as I know his voting record well, especially when it comes to his cozy relationship with the energy industry). However, this sentiment, which clearly comes from the heart, is just another glimmering example of the control that corporate power has over our elected officials. Sham on you Barton... you corporate whore.

    June 17, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Taylor

    For all those politicians who think that the escrow fund is extortion–What is your solution for paying all the people who have had their livelihoods ruined (perhaps forever) by BP? Wait and let BP decide who deserves money, how much they deserve, and when they get it? This is NOT a company that will be shamed into doing the right thing. These politicians are traitors! This spill may not be in their backyard but this is (supposed to be) their America too and they should be angry that it has been defiled this way.

    June 17, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. LastModerate

    Typical politician if you ask me. This guy is probaly getting millions of dollars from BP and felt the need to pay them back by trying to make them out the victims. I'm not at all happy with our government right now, they spend to much, politicians care to much about making money for themselves and to many of the people in our government are to stupid to think for themselves and not just tow the party line. In this case the president actually got it right. The people of the gulf coast are victims and his job is to serve them not BP. Barton should try and remember who he serves.

    June 17, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. JHead01

    Exactly how would we 'misconstrue' those comments Mr. Barton? Did you apologize to the leaders of now-defunct Enron corporation as well? I believe Mr. Putnam (R) said it best when he declared that it is you who owes the American people in the gulf coast an apology, and not BP's CEO. Now is not the time to bend over and kowtow to financiers of your election coffers. Now is the time to bend over and give a helping hand to the constituents who elected you to protect them from disasters such as this.

    June 17, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. JOhn

    Apologizing to BP here is as ridiculous as when that guy apologized to Cheney when Cheney got drunk and shot him in the face.
    GOP is the Grand Oil Party, they cannot make it any clearer. There interests are focused on their party and their campaign financers but never on the people of this country. The most important thing to them is getting elected and becoming part of a Government that they say needs to be “drown in a bathtub.” Lie, steal and cheat to become part of something you do not believe in? Any wonder they are so useless?

    June 17, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Phil

    Obama has a moral authority to stand up for the people living along the Gulf of Mexico coast who are being affected by this. Enough of the stupid republican arguments against government intervention. If they don't intervene, what real incentive is there for BP to lift a finger to help clean up.

    June 17, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. Rickster

    Obama is a total disaster. Whether it is the economy, foreign affairs, the oil spill, health care, cronyism or any other issue, Obama is an epic failure. This little experiment of electing an inexperienced radical loon has failed miserably. Democrats should never be elected into power again after hanging us with this laughable buffoon as president.

    June 17, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. BILL

    Last week, several politicians bemoaned the perceived delayed response from the White House concerning BP's mess. Now there are politicians that are apparently seated well to the right of the center aisle complaining that the White House is "shaking down" BP and claiming the adiminstration is engaged in extortion. REALLY PEOPLE?!!! The next time one of these jerks wants to defend BP, could they please begin their remarks by showing all of us their employee cards from whichever lobby, petroleum company, or special interest group they actually work for. it is obvious to me they don't work for America!

    June 17, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  24. ficheye

    How could his comments be 'misconstrued?' That means that we misinterpreted his comments and what he meant to say was something else. What he should have said was "I'm sorry. I spoke out of anger. I own stock in BP and could lose my shirt if they have to pay that money... even if it was their fault". Or he might have said "Obama is a socialist!! Haven't you been listening to Glen Beck? This oil spill is just a cover up for the take over of the New world Order!

    This guy is just saying inflammatory things because he dislikes Obama. That's OK with me. But don't mix it up with this tragedy which was not his fault.

    June 17, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. John in Dallas

    Barton has no business being on that committee. We call him Smokey Joe for a reason.

    June 17, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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