UPDATE: House Democrats say it’s not entirely clear that Barton has in fact apologized for his remarks. They are pointing to a Wednesday morning Twitter post from Rep. Barton’s account that read “Joe Barton Was Right” and linked to an American Spectator article defending Barton.
The post was deleted just eight minutes later, and Barton insists it was a mistake by one of his staffers. “I have a tweet (sic) account with instructions that it is only to be used by me. My press secretary sent out an article,” Barton told Fox, “When I found out about it I retracted it.”
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, will remain ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee after issuing yet another mea culpa for his widely criticized apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward.
Barton made his most recent amends before his colleagues at a closed meeting of the House GOP conference Wednesday. House Republicans accepted those remarks, and members in the caucus say they are ready to move forward.
“He apologized for what he called his poor choice of words, and I think the issue is closed,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Barton had offered his condolences to Hayward at a hearing last week where the CEO was appearing for the government’s insistence that the oil giant set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay for cleanup costs resulting from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. At a hearing last week, Barton called those actions by the administration a “shakedown.” He retracted those remarks later that day.
Democrats, however, were not as quick as Republicans to turn the page on the matter. At least one Democrat claimed that there were other Republicans who felt BP was owed an apology. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. wondered, “Why are we only holding Joe Barton accountable when there are some who said the same thing?”
A statement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization charged with helping to put Democrats in House seats, was quick to exploit the issue for political gain. “The stakes this November could not be more clear, House Democrats stand with American taxpayers and the people of the Gulf,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Ryan Rudominer, “Versus Republicans who side with British Petroleum and Big Oil special interests.”
The Democratic National Committee has also already used the Barton flap in two television ads, and noted Wednesday there will probably be more to come.
House Republicans rejected that assertion saying that their caucus believed in second chances. Noting that he had taken back his words, National Republican Campaign Committee head Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, was “disappointed that the administration and Democrats are attempting to politicize an issue.”
One Gulf Coast member, whose region is directly affected by the spill, said he took Barton’s words at face value. “He called me over the weekend,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., “He apologized and I accepted.”
Even some Democrats have heard a sufficient number of apologies from Barton. The Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was “astonished” by Barton’s original remarks, but also appeared ready to move on, “I look forward to working with him for the rest of the session. That doesn’t mean I agree with him.”