When Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP chairman Tony Hayward for the White House's demand for $20 billion from the company for oil spill clean-up and recovery, he provoked a firestorm of criticism. Barton, a Texas Republican and the ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, made clear he was speaking only for himself when he made the statement during his committee's hearing with Hayward.
His comment has created a dilemma for conservatives, many of whom have criticized the White House's $20 billion escrow account, but who do not want to appear defending the oil company responsible for the disastrous oil spill. So far, Republican lawmakers are largely condemning Barton, while conservative bloggers are either applauding him or staying silent. Update: Barton has retracted his apology. "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," he said.
Opposing Barton's Apology
- Minority Leader Boehner Steps Away From Barton The Hill's Michael O'Brien reports, "House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) broke with a top Republican on Thursday who suggested BP had suffered a "shakedown" by being forced to set up a $20 billion fund to pay out damages. Asked at his weekly press conference if he disagreed with Barton’s characterization of the deal struck Wednesday at the White House, Boehner quickly responded, 'I do.' 'BP agreed to fund the cost of this cleanup from the beginning and I’m glad they’re being held accountable,' Boehner told reporters."
- Fellow Republicans Renounce Barton Politico's Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman report, "Republicans, particularly Gulf state lawmakers, are furious at Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and may ask him to cede his job as top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the wake of his apology to BP Thursday. 'People are calling for his head,' said a GOP member of the committee."
- Barton Should Step From Leadership Spot The Hill's Michael O'Brien writes, "Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), whose Pensacola district is among the most affected areas in the Gulf by the oil spill, condemned Barton for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward during a committee meeting on Thursday. 'I condemn Mr. Barton’s statement. 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,' Miller said in a statement. 'He should step down as ranking member of the Committee.'"
- 'This Is a Mistake' Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey sighs, "If Barton wanted to keep heat on the White House over its interactions with BP, this is a poor way of going about it. BP doesn’t require any apologies at the moment, at least not until we know what happened. ... It’s possible to oppose the White House’s actions here without begging forgiveness of BP and its CEO. This is a mistake."
Supporting Barton's Apology
- Sen. Cornyn: I Share His Concern Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters, "I think it’s good that there’s going to be some money there. But I think the part that Representative Barton is expressing some concern about, that I share the concern, is that this has become a political issue for the president and he’s trying to deal with it by showing how tough he’s being against BP."
- The Truth Hurts Conservative blogger JammieWearingFool writes, "As an American, I'm ashamed of what's been going on at the White House for the past 17 months. Let's hear it for Rep. Joe Barton of Texas who, I'll remind people, is speaking for himself. ... Aww, the poor babies can't handle the truth. Waaah!"
- BP Treated Unfairly The American Spectator's Ross Kaminsky sides with Barton. "BP is not a victim here. They're not in the least bit sympathetic. But this is the nation that presumes innocence before guilt, that is founded on the rule of law rather than of men. How strange it is that we elected a president who ... treats a major international corporation -- which had already said it would pay all legitimate claims -- the way Al Capone treated a rival moonshine distributor. One can almost picture Barack Obama walking behind BP executives with a bat in his hand."
- Impolitic But Basically Right The Right Scoop concedes, "it may be a little sappy to issue an apology at this point in time, but I completely agree with his sentiment. There are certainly better ways to call out the white house on their power hungry ways."