Things aren't all bad for BP. CEO Tony Hayward appeared before a House Energy panel Thursday and at least one Republican congressman spoke up in his defense.
Rep. Joe Barton called the $20 billion trust fund a "shakedown" and apologized to the oil company.
"I'm speaking totally for myself and I'm not speaking for the Republican Party and 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's 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 what I think sets a terrible precedent for the future," said Barton.
"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 and is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize," he said.
(Nicole): Does it surprise you that Joe Barton's largest campaign contributors come from the oil & gas industries? It shouldn't. Nice that he so blatantly shows his bias against Americans and the worst environmental disaster to hit this country and for his own craven interests. Frankly, I think Nancy Pelosi should make him apologize to Americans on the House floor since he was also the chief architect of the Cheney Oil Act that deregulated oil industry, waived EIRs and allowed this travesty to happen.
Here's his contact information if you'd like to share your opinion of his groveling in front of BP.
UPDATE: The White House responds:
“What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.”
UPDATE 2: Nancy Pelosi tweets:
Americans are suffering in the Gulf while Republicans apologize to Big Oil. We need clean energy now. #BPhearing
UPDATE 3: Wow. Per the Politico, there are some very unhappy (Republican!) congresspeople in the Gulf region, calling for Barton's head:
Republicans, particularly Gulf state lawmakers, are furious at Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and may ask him to cede his job as top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the wake of his apology to BP Thursday.
"People are calling for his head," said a GOP member of the committee.
[..]Barton, headed into Minority Leader John Boehner's office, said calls for his resignation are "news to me."
Asked whether he planned to stay put as top Republican on the committee, he declared "Damn straight."
Lawmakers were "hunkered down" in Boehner's office to discuss the flap, according to the member who said people were calling for Barton's resignation.
UPDATE 4: Per CNN's Lisa Desjardins:
BARTON: More Repubs denouncing Barton (R-TX) apology to BP. Now Brown-Waite, R-FL, Putnam, R-FL, Scalise, R-LA and Miller. #OilSpill
UPDATE 5: Nate Silver points out that Barton's top corporate donor is a partner of BP on Deepwater Horizon. Can you say conflict of interest?
UPDATE 6: Barton walks back his apology:
“I want the record to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible and should in every way do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident. And if anything I have said this morning has been misconstrued in opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction.”
That non-apology apology didn't work too well for most. As John Kerry tweeted: Exactly which part of "shakedown" was misconstrued?
Barton was more direct in a statement issued in his name later: “I apologize for using the term "shakedown," and I retract my apology to BP.”