The House Republican leadership brass gave Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) an option: either apologize immediately or lose his post as the top GOPer on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

"(Boehner and Cantor) are in agreement that he was within a centimeter of losing his position," said a senior GOP aide. "He could could apologize immediately or lose his position."

At a high-profile hearing Thursday, Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the government's treatment of the firm.

He also accused the Obama administration of executing a "shakedown" to force the company to create a $20 billion escrow account to cover damages.

By late Thursday, Barton withdrew his his comments.

"I retract my apology to BP," Barton said.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), who represents parts of the Florida panhandle, called for Republican leaders to strip Barton of his post on the committee.

After Barton apologized, the House Republican leadership team issued a rare joint statement saying that Barton was "wrong."

"He's on thin ice," said another senior House GOP leadership aide of Barton's future.

Republican sources indicated that they will be watching to see how Barton comports himself the next few days and also monitor potential furor among rank-and-file Republicans at Barton.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took advantage of Barton's misstep to criticize Republicans at-large:

"I think that Mr. Barton's comments fit comfortably among the leadership of the Republicans in the House of Representatives," said the speaker. "But he is not alone in his association with sympathy for the oil companies."