WASHINGTON – Rep. Joe Barton (search) couldn't hide his emotion as his committee, after more than 12 hours of plowing through countless amendments, finally came to voting on a huge, sometimes contentious energy bill.
Midnight was approaching Wednesday as Barton, R-Texas, started to call for the vote, but faltered. He began to sob and the audience in a partly empty committee room fell silent, some wondering if Barton had taken ill.
After a few long seconds, Barton recovered and apologized for his emotion. Fellow lawmakers stood and began to applaud the 20-year veteran of Congress.
Asked about the incident at a news conference Thursday, Barton said he had been tired after a long day in which he presided over the consideration of dozens of amendments.
Seeking to play down the matter, Barton also said he had been personally hurt by an exchange involving the last amendment of the night, one involving Indian energy issues (search). Several Democrats asked whether the amendment was a "backdoor" way to approve drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge.
Barton assured the Democrats there was no such purpose. Another committee earlier in the day had included Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (search) drilling in another section of the bill.
The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill 39-15.