The White House today pounced on what it clearly sees as a nice and wide political opening, blasting Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the powerful ranking member of the House Energy panel, for apologizing to testifying BP executives for what he called a “shakedown” of the company.
White House Press Secretary Gibbs put the pressure squarely on the GOP to distance itself from Barton’s comments or be tagged as friends of Big Bad Oil. Here’s Gibbs’ statement:
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.
Barton had directed his ire at the $20 billion deal agreed to Wednesday at the White House by President Obama and the visiting BP brass. The money would be used to pay Gulf residents who can show they were harmed by the oil spill. Here’s what Barton said:
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.
I assure you, given polls showing people think Obama hasn’t been tough enough on the company, the White House could not be happier with such a statement.