By Michael O'Brien - 06/17/10 08:26 PM EDT
The top three members of the Republican leadership
were forced to respond after Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward
in a hearing for the government's pressure on the company to establish
a $20 billion account in escrow to pay out damages related to the oil
“It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown,” Barton said.
He later backed off those remarks, apologizing before the committee and in a statement.
Democrats pounced throughout the day on Barton's statement, seeking to tie his remarks to the GOP as a whole. Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop Dem: Cures bill funding cut to B Yes, this election will change America forever The FCC’s Privacy Problem MORE called the sentiment "incredibly insensitive," while White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs questioned Barton's fitness to serve in the top GOP position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The leadership trio sought in their statement to redirect the debate away from their own party and back toward President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObamas welcome Olympians to White House Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Obama pushes to end solitary confinement; states led the way. MORE's handling of the crisis, where they'd made some headway in recent weeks.
"The families and businesspeople in the Gulf region want leadership, accountability and action from BP and the administration," they said. "It is unacceptable that, 59 days after this crisis began, no solution is forthcoming. Simply put, the American people want all of our resources, time and focus to be directed toward stopping the spill and cleaning up the mess."