WASHINGTON--In comments slammed by the White House, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Thursday apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the $20 billion deal the White House worked out with BP on Wednesday to compensate people whose lives and businesses were ruined by the oil spill.
Vice President Biden, asked about Barton during a White House briefing on the Recovery Act, said Barton was "insensitive" and "out of touch." Said Biden, "There was no shake down."
Asked about other Republicans who called the BP deal part of-and this is a paraphrase---a Socialist plot, White House, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asked "what world are they living on" and suggesting it is a "delusional thing."
Gibbs is also questioning whether Barton--what with his apology to BP-- should even be the ranking member on the House panel dealing with the BP oil spill disaster.
At the beginning of a House hearing where Hayward was in the hotseat, Barton said:
I'm speaking this totally for myself. I'm not speaking for the
Republican Party. I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of
Representatives but myself, but I'm ashamed of what happened in the
White House yesterday.
I think 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 shakedown, with the attorney
general of the United States who is legitimately conducting a criminal
investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of
the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion
slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, that's got no
legal standing, and which sets, I think, I terrible precedent for the
If I called you into my office and I had the subcommittee
chairman, Mr. Stupak, with me who was legitimately conducting an
oversight investigation on your company and said, if you put so many
millions of dollars in a project in my congressional district, I could
go to jail and should go to jail.
Now, there is no question that British Petroleum owns this lease.
There is no question that BP -- I'm sorry, it's not British Petroleum
anymore -- that BP made decisions that objective people think
compromised safety. There's no question that BP is liable for the
damages. But we have a due process system where we go through
hearings, in some cases, court cases, litigation and determine what
those damages are when those damages should be paid.
So I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anybody
else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any
time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately
wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in
my words, amounts to a shakedown.
So I apologize. But on this hearing today, I am with Mr. Waxman,
with Mr. Stupak. There are answers that need to be -- questions that
need to be asked that are legitimate because we don't want another oil
spill of this magnitude -- or of any magnitude in the Gulf of Mexico.
And if this subcommittee can do things that make it much more
difficult for this type of an incident to occur in the future, then we
will have done our work for the American people.