White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Thursday sought to ratchet up the pressure on Republicans and further highlight potentially politically damaging statements by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) by suggesting that Barton should resign as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. From today’s briefing.
GIBBS: I think Republicans are going to have to ask themselves whether Congressman Barton should be the ranking member of a committee that’s doing what it’s doing today, given the fact that he believes we owe an apology to BP, rather than BP owing an apology to the Gulf.
QUESTION: Are you asking him to resign?
QUESTION: Or step down?
GIBBS: I will let Republicans make that decision.
Barton has started doing damage control, retracting his apology to BP and apologizing himself for using the word “shakedown.”
At a committee hearing earlier today, Barton accused the White House of performing a “shakedown” of BP by getting the company to agree to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate people damaged by the oil spill. Barton “apologized” to BP officials who were testifying at the hearing.
Speaking along with Gibbs during an unusual appearance in the White House briefing room, Vice President Biden called Barton’s remarks “outrageous” and “astounding” saying, “I find it incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch.”
Republicans are not happy with Barton for offering a sympathetic voice to the popularly reviled BP. But it will be interesting to see if they bow to Democrats’ pressure for Barton to leave his post.