The Big Question: Should Barton step down over BP apology?



A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at The Hill, said:
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) shouldn't voluntarily step down as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after purposefully, intentionally blasting the Obama administration's request that BP fund a $20 billion compensation account for victims of the Gulf oil spill. But whether the House GOP leadership should make Barton step down from his role as leader on energy matters for House Republicans, is another question entirely.
 
Barton was forced to apologize but is clearly unapologetic in his defense of the oil industry, from which he has collected more than $1 million in the last two decades. He didn't make a gaffe, or confuse anyone with his statement and strong views -- he apologized to BP, called the president's request a "shakedown" and said the matter was a "tragedy." We know, no matter what his "apology" said, how Barton feels and he has every right to express his views as a member of the U.S. Congress and as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Commitee. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) who chaired the panel for years, is an unapologetic defender of the auto industry he has represented for years in Detroit. But the views Barton holds, should Republicans take back the House this fall, aren't politically convenient right now and many pro-market Republicans are seeking a way to empathize with victims of the spill without seeming to defend BP and its safety record.
 
This is a call for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and the other House leaders, to decide if Barton is now so potent a campaign commercial for Democrats that he indeed must go.



Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said:
Just another polarized, partisan issue, but with a twist. Smart Republicans want Barton gone, and smart Democrats want him to stay right where he is—front and center for all future televised hearings. Sometimes partisanship makes sense.




Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
Yes. Clueless beyond repair. There comes a moment when a legislator show himself to be merely oppositional. Call it Groucho Marxism; Groucho as Professor Wagstaff in “Horsefeathers” announcing: “Whatever is it, I’m against it.” Whatever the President does we oppose. Barton exposed himself as living in that isolation booth; insulated from the American mood and without political instinct. He should resign and become a lobbyist.




Glenn Reynolds, Blogger at Instapundit, said:
Good grief, no.  If saying stupid things in Congressional hearings cost people their committee positions, we wouldn't have any committees.  I mean, two words:  Henry Waxman.

The story of BP vs. the White House is a story of crooks being shaken down by thugs, with a liberal dose of incompetence on both sides.  Barton was only pointing out the shakedown aspect, but he was certainly dead-on with regard to that.




Richard S. Lindzen, atmospheric physicist and professor at MIT, said::
Frankly, Boehner, Cantor and Spence are the ones who should be ashamed.  This is the essence of political correctness.  As far as I can tell, Barton was simply telling the truth, but if one can insist that the truth be suppressed, then dishonesty becomes the new 'truth.'  Boehner, Cantor and Spence were, unfortunately, buying into this paradigm.  None of this is to say that BP is blameless.  However, that doesn't change the fact  that they are being shaken down by a government that strongly shares responsibility for this fiasco.

Still, given that BP (among its numerous and genuine sins) was a strong supporter of Obama and of 'cap and trade,' I do harbor lingering suspicions that BP may be counting on the administration to do things that ultimately may harm BP's competitors more than it harms BP.


Justin Raimondo
, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:
Let's see: Congress passes legislation -- supported by Democrats as well as Republicans  -- limiting the liability of the oil companies for any accidents that occur offshore. An accident happens: the Gulf is swamped in oil -- the Democrats demagogue it (although their votes made it possible) and the Republicans (or, at least, one of them) denounces efforts to get BP to pay as a "shakedown." It's hard to pick who's the most hypocritical, here: perhaps we'd best call it a tie. But if Joe Barton  must resign for his economic ignorance and political tin ear, then the whole GOP caucus should follow suit, because Barton is far from alone in this.



Tom Fitton,
president of Judicial Watch, said:

It has become the apology heard ‘round the world: Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), during his opening remarks as ranking minority member on the House Committee on Energy  and Commerce, apologized to BP for the Obama White House “shakedown.” He was referring to the $20 billion that the White House squeezed out of BP after hours of negotiation on Wednesday for an “escrow” account to provide compensation to people impacted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

 

“There is no question that BP is liable for the damages, but we have a due process system where we go through litigation and court cases to determine what the damages are and when they should be paid,” Barton said.

 

Even though Barton was forced by the White House and fellow Republicans to retract his apology, the question of where the executive branch get its authority to pressure and shakedown a private company remains. What is becoming of the “separation of powers?”

 

Also, what is becoming of the role of the federal government generally? Remember the documents Judicial Watch uncovered where Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told the nation’s top bank executives “take the government investment or else.” Remember the government takeover of General Motors, another example of Big Government intrusion enabling politicians to make business decisions outside their areas of expertise. Remember the takeover of healthcare.

 

Remember that the White House is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so we may never know what was threatened or promised behind closed doors in the meeting with BP.  What we do know is that BP begged the Obama White House not to destroy the company in exchange for the $20 billion.  

 

It ought to be of concern that a $20 billion judgment or fine has been extracted from BP though the exercise of raw political power by the White House. Calling it a "shakedown" is being charitable. Normally, a dollar figure of this magnitude would result from the judicial process and/or through the enforcement of a law passed through the regular legislative process.  Highly irregular. 

 

 Bart Stupak is already talking about using the fund to help pay for Obamacare in the Gulf. 

 

It should be up to the courts, due process, and the rule of law to settle claims of this nature, rather than having a White House effectively extort private companies. Barton was correct and should retain his seat. The Republican leadership missed an opportunity to take a bold stand for limited government under law.