Player of the Week: Rep. Joe Barton

Will Joe Barton (R-Texas) survive the week as the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee?

Barton’s apology to BP last week was cited repeatedly by the White House and Democrats in Congress as a reason why voters should reject the GOP at the polls this fall.

ADVERTISEMENT
The good news for Barton is that countless politicians have survived after major gaffes. In many cases, it’s not what you say, but how you recover from it.

The bad news for Barton is that two Republicans, Reps. Jeff Miller (Fla.) and Jo Bonner (Ala.), have called for Barton to step aside as the panel’s ranking member.

Before his statements about a government “shakedown” of BP, Barton was angling to become the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee should the GOP win control of the House this fall.

Barton has clearly blown any chance of that. What remains to be seen is whether he can remain atop the Republican side of the panel for the remainder of the Congress. The members behind him in seniority are Reps. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

During the House’s debate on climate change last year, Republicans privately questioned Barton’s leadership against the bill. Barton has long questioned the science of global warming, frustrating some in the GOP who say that focusing on that argument divides the party and distracts from the economic arguments against the Democrats’ legislation.

Barton has seen and done a lot in his 13 terms in the lower chamber. He suffered a heart attack in 2005, helped move much of President George W. Bush’s energy policy in Bush’s second term and has worked on a wide variety of telecommunications issues.

If he can survive this week, he’ll likely keep his committee perch for the rest of the year.