Updated at 5:15 pm ET — Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reports that House Republican leaders told Rep. Joe Barton they would take away his seniority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (a former chairman, he is now the top Republican on the panel) if he didn't apologize for his remarks and pronto.
The relevant excerpt:
"Barton met with Boehner and Cantor this afternoon. He was told, 'Apologize, immediately. Or you will lose your position, immediately. Now that he has apologized, we'll see what happens going forward," said the leadership aide.
"He was concerned about explaining his point that the White House doesn't necessarily have the authority to do what they did. But, when you start out by apologizing to BP, you've lost your audience," said a second aide, "especially when they agreed to the fund willingly and when our Members are on record supporting the fund."
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Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) evidently raised one heck of a firestorm with his comments at a House hearing featuring BP CEO Tony Hayward. The lawmaker accused the White House of a "shakedown" of the energy giant by getting the company to agree to a $20 billion compensation fund.
He has now issued an apology for apologizing to BP and for using the word "shakedown." Here it is:
Statement from Rep. Joe Barton
WASHINGTON – Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, made the following statement regarding comments at a subcommittee hearing earlier today:
“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. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.
“I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.”
At the continuation of the hearing Thursday afternoon, Barton had the hang dog look of a congressman whose inbound phone calls were running strongly negative.
He also had the look of a man who was seeing other Republicans distance themselves from his statement, even at the very same hearing where he made it. After questioning Hayward, Barton said his remarks were "misconstrued."
And his party's leadership in the House also made it clear they wanted no part of Barton's apology to the most hated company in the U.S. House Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) issued a statement, too:
"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. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.
"The families and businesspeople in the Gulf region want leadership, accountability and action from BP and the Administration. It is unacceptable that, 59 days after this crisis began, no solution is forthcoming. Simply put, the American people want all of our resources, time and focus to be directed toward stopping the spill and cleaning up the mess."
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has grabbed with both hands the chance to make Republicans look like BP's handmaidens.
In a press release, the DNC introduces a new ad with this statement:
Despite his half-hearted and insincere effort this afternoon to walk back his troublesome apology made to BP CEO Tony Hayward earlier this morning, and in the face of one analyst after another billing the President’s successful demands yesterday forcing BP to create a $20 billion escrow fund “a huge victory” for the Gulf, Representative Joe Barton continues to face ridicule for siding with BP over Gulf Coast residents. “I APOLOGIZE” offers an empathetic angle on Barton’s apology to BP, pointing to the attention Barton’s rash remarks have stirred and to his fellow party members who have fallen in line with the same sentiments.
Here's the ad: