The House Republican leadership is trying to distance itself from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), for comments Barton made to BP CEO Tony Hayward today as the embattled CEO appeared on Capitol Hill to face questioning from Congress.
During the course of the hearing Barton, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told Hayward that “It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown.” (See video below)
Barton has since backed off from the apology to BP, but not without getting lambasted from both sides of the aisle.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) condemned the Barton apology in a combined statement the three released today.
"The oil spill in the Gulf is this nation’s largest natural disaster and stopping the leak and cleaning up the region is our top priority. Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong," the top three House Republicans wrote.
Democrats were quick to pounce on the apology from Barton, long considered an ally of the oil and gas industry, as more evidence that the Republican Party has been too cozy for too long with 'Big Oil.' (As it turns out, Barton's top donor over the last 21 years is Anadarko Petroleum, a 25 percent partner in the Deepwater Horizon exploring the Macondo Prospect). Vice President Joe Biden called Barton's remarks "Incredibly insensitive; incredibly out of touch."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs chastised Barton, saying he "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.
"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," Gibbs Said.
Watch video of Barton apologizing to BP for the "$20 billion shakedown":
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