Republican Congressman Apologizes To BP For White House “Shakedown”

The Congressional hearings on the BP oil spill are just starting, but we’ve already got the first headline of the day:

WASHINGTON – A leading House Republican accused the White House Thursday of a “$20 billion shakedown” of oil giant BP by requiring the company to establish a huge fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Rep. Joe Barton made the assertion at the outset of a House hearing where BP’s chief executive officer, Tony Hayward, was appearing for the first time before Congress.

Facing Hayward at the witness table, the Texas Republican congressman said, “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House” on Wednesday. Barton was referring to the agreement that President Barack Obama announced with BP for establishment of a $20 billion relief fund.

Rep. Ed Markey sharply disagreed with Barton.

Markey said the compensation fund was “not a slush fund, not a shakedown. … It was the government of the United States working to protect the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our country right now, the residents of the Gulf.”

“It’s BP’s spill,” the Massachusetts Democrat said, “but it is America’s ocean, and it is America’s citizens who are being harmed. … No, this is not a shakedown of the company.”

Video:

Already, the White House is out with a 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.

This strikes me as an incredibly stupid statement on Barton’s part. As I noted yesterday, there are plenty of legitimate questions that need to be asked about the escrow fund that was announced by the White House. However, there are no apologies necessary to BP, or to Tony Hayward. Ultimately, there are responsible for the damages resulting from the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon and that seems to be what the escrow fund is intended to cover.

More importantly, though, the sheer political stupidity of apologizing to a company that is responsible for the worst environmental disaster in American history. Barton is unlikely to pay a political price himself since he has represented the same Texas Congressional District since 1985, but I doubt you will see any other Republicans joining Barton in his apologia, aside from the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.

Update: At the start of the afternoon session of the hearing, Barton retracted his earlier statement:

“I apologize for using the term ‘shakedown’ with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future. I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.”

Well okay then.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Environment, Oil Spill, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dantheman says:

    Doug,

    “but I doubt you will see any other Republicans joining Barton in his apologia, aside from the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world”

    You mean like these folks?

  2. Dantheman says:
  3. Steve Plunk says:

    The White House claims BP “caused” the disaster? The cause has yet to be determined and BP is paying a price for the accident so is it responsible to cast blame like this? No.

    Barton is correct in apologizing for the bullying tactics and unhelpful rhetoric coming out of the Administration. Grownups approach these things without inflaming the situation or making enemies of people who are working to solve the problem. The White House needs to get a grip on itself and work harder not louder.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    If I was a bit more cynical, I would suspect this is a simple dog whistle play. Republicans need to fund raise, BP and the other oil companies need friends in government, and some well protected GOP’ers come out publicly sticking up for them, and then BP and the other oil companies…

    Heck, I am that cynical.

  5. Anon says:

    The White House claims BP “caused” the disaster? The cause has yet to be determined and BP is paying a price for the accident so is it responsible to cast blame like this? No.

    So once it is determined, it will then be responsible to cast blame, correct? What if it is never determined? Then taxpayers should pay? So once again, businesses get the profit, but taxpayers incur the risk?

  6. sam says:

    @Plunk

    “The White House claims BP “caused” the disaster? The cause has yet to be determined and BP is paying a price for the accident so is it responsible to cast blame like this? No.”

    Uh, yes it is, since the rig and its operation were the direct responsibility of BP. As the, so to speak, prime contractor on the rig, BP is responsible, ultimately, for the action of any subcontractors it hires to do work on the rig. If one of those subcontractors, say Halliburton for the cementing, is found to have been remiss in its work product, the responsibility would still fall on BP as overseer (and guarantor) of Halliburton’s work. The buck stops at BP.

    Your solicitude is touching, if misplaced.

  7. wr says:

    Steve Plunk — For years I’ve heard that conservatives are all about responsibility. But I guess that responsibility ends when it might attach to a large corporation. Although it was BP’s rig that blew up, apparently you would like us to assume that the subsequent leak of millions of barrels into the Gulf is simply coincidental to BP’s well.

  8. J.W. Hamner says:

    It seems like a tactical mistake for the White House to have pushed back so swiftly… I’d have let the “Corporate Shakedown” meme take firmer hold in the GOP before smacking it down. GOP reps lining up to apologize to BP, and shield them from Obama, would have been a gift that kept on giving. Oh well.

  9. John says:

    @Steve Plunk – this isn’t a murder trial so cause or motive isn’t really an issue. The issue is fairly simple – oil is spilling from a well owned by BP. Oil pumped from the well, when working, was claimed and profited from by BP. That same oil is now spilling into the gulf and wreaking havoc on the region’s economy and ecosystem.

    As with all business BP has to take on inherent risk versus perceived reward. Now, that risk has appeared in its most ugly and destructive form. It matters little what happened, only that is did happen. While the difference between manslaughter and murder is intent the result of both is still a body.

  10. drew says:

    A pox on both their houses. I just listened to Henry Waxman’s screed. What a despicable human being. Look, politics is what it is, hand to hand combat. But the real point is being missed.

    Natural and commercial disasters are going to occur. Always have and always will. There is no perfect world. Its the failure of private and government/public interests to merge their efforts productively that is the problem. Instead, a chance for political points. Ugh.

    How quickly the left has forgotten the prominent campaign contributions, and the support of “green” alternatives by BP. From model corporate citizen to goat in a nanosecond. Politics, you know.

    And with all the invective being hurled, can anyone explain to me why its day 59 or whatever before Obama meets with the BP CEO?? Anyone? That’s just insane.

    Oh, wait, that contribution thingy. Never mind.

  11. Rick Almeida says:

    “Barton is correct in apologizing for the bullying tactics and unhelpful rhetoric coming out of the Administration. Grownups approach these things without inflaming the situation or making enemies of people who are working to solve the problem. The White House needs to get a grip on itself and work harder not louder.”

    Plunk is absolutely right. If the White House had avoided meddling in this unfortunate situation, the invisible hand of the market would have produced an elegant solution long before.

  12. drew says:

    BTW – I just read the stream of left leaning complaints about BP.

    You know, government has us on the brink of insolvency after 50 years of financial mismanagement, with wild eyed promises of end to poverty etc etc. Where is the outrage, the hearings, the commentors calls for government accountability???

    I didn’t think so.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    It appears that the money is not going into the Oils Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was created to allow government to pay for damages to “fishermen, small business owners and communities” from oil spills. I have to assume the “off book” account serves some other purpose.

  14. Wayne says:

    We have no idea what limitations are in place for use of this “escrow” account and its interest. The interest is important to keep in mind. Often the interest would go back into the account but sometimes it doesn’t and it can be used for other things that wouldn’t be subject to any escrow use limitation that they may or “may not” come up with.

    So Obama can take the money and\or its interest and used it to pay for policy\political propaganda(green energy). That may not concern some but it does me.

    The head of the government forcing private citizens\companies to put money into a fund whose purpose is not spell out is a shakedown. It is about like passing a bill that hasn’t been written yet. Maybe it will turn out to be good. However that is a big chance to take since once it is committed or passed the person in charge can do pretty much do anything they like.

  15. Steve Plunk says:

    So waiting for all the facts to come in before letting loose with damaging rhetoric is irresponsible? What’s the rush to blame someone? That’s what I see as irresponsible.

    Accidents happen and BP will pay a price for it’s accident but does it do anybody any good to have trash talk coming out of the White House? It does not. Serious people know now is the time to fix the leak rather than point fingers but this administration is all about pointing fingers.

    BP has never given any indication of shirking it’s responsibilities regarding this spill. BP knows it can’t run and hide. Why do some think it’s proper to bad mouth responsible companies when they have an accident? Sure, the public is angry but first it’s BP then what company or business is next on the most hated list? How much good has BP done in the previous years providing jobs for gulf coast citizens? How much as BP paid in taxes to the US Treasury? How much oil has BP provided for the US economy? Business is not an enemy to be villainized at every opportunity.

  16. john personna says:

    Steve you are undermining yourself with “The White House claims BP “caused” the disaster?”

    Ah, unless anyone else had a well right there.

    On the other hand, Drew’s “pox on both houses” improves his position. (Selective sensitivity to BP criticisms aside, of course)

  17. John says:

    @Steve – I think you’re getting a little tied into rhetoric coming from Washington and answering that over looking at the real issue. What facts will change the need for billions of dollars and years spent cleaning up the mess?

    BP seems to be acting in good faith to try and fix a very bad problem while dancing with the devil of public opinion. The 20B is part of this fix/dance.

    They certainly seem to be accepting of their part in this, why can’t others?

  18. grampagravy says:

    “The cause has yet to be determined…” ???
    A faulty, cut-and-paste, fairy-tale response plan filed by BP to get the drilling permit.
    First hand testimony of problems with the rig and corners cut by BP.
    BP’s (and four other major oil company’s) admission before Congress that they haven’t the ability to deal effectively with deep water spills.
    Regardless of exactly what mechanical or human whatchmacallit failed or was recklessly used, BP had a hole punched in the sea floor for the sake of BP’s profit and it went catastrophically wrong.
    If their was the slightest question as to BP’s responsibility for this disaster, Tony Hayward would be shouting it from rooftops-not caving to reparations with an apology. Only willful ignorance or blind subservience to oil profits could motivate a statement like “the cause has yet to be determined.”

  19. floyd says:

    Being cynical today is simply realism. What’s rare is being realistic about both parties
    How long before his supporters start seeing the cynical agenda of resident B.O.’s administration?

    Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the left is right , then what’s left is right… and any fool knows,that what is actually left is not right.
    Now… if left is not right, then left is wrong, and since we started with the premise that left is right and came to the conclusion that left is wrong, then right is right, even by simple definition , right is right… right?
    So… what’s left is ….. cynicism,and since what’s left is cynicism, and what was previously left was right then what is right is also cynicism… Right??

  20. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    BP has taken responsiblity for this accident since day one. Obama, on the other hand has done little to take any responsiblity for the governments part. BP requested a drill site which was in 500 ft. of water. Louisiana agreed to the site. The Obama administration and the EPA decided they could only drill at a site in which the bottom lay 5000 ft. from the surface. In 500 ft. drilling, there is no disaster if a leak occures. Everyone is focused on BP while the responsibility of govrnment is ignored. Seems to me one of Alinsky’s rules deals with demonizing to get a political end. A congress critter is on TV at this moment trying to refute the term slush fund. This usage has yet to be proven, but why does the government insist on oversite when they failed so miserably on oversite at the wellhead?

  21. Grewgills says:

    Last week’s 60 Minutes is worth watching. If even half of it is true BP was negligent in the operation of the well as their concern for speed overcame their concern for safety.

  22. floyd says:

    Cynicism…
    a Greek philosophy of the 4th century B.C. advocating the doctrines that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control and individual freedom, and that surrender to any external influence is beneath the dignity of man.

    So…. can the left really be right, or was the original premise facetious?

  23. PD Shaw says:

    “They certainly seem to be accepting of their part in this, why can’t others?”

    I don’t assume BP has America’s best interest at heart. I don’t disagree that they seem to be acting in good faith to fix the problem. But if the government is going to do something illegal, ignore the existing laws, regulations and plans it has on the books, I can’t help but be concerned that BP might be building a legal defense down the road.

  24. Pug says:

    ..does it do anybody any good to have trash talk coming out of the White House?

    Remember “Bring it on!”, followed by loud cheers from “serious people” all over America? Now that was some trash talk.

    The sad part, though, was that they (Iraqis) proceeded to bring it and a whole lot of people got killed.

  25. Herb says:

    “Serious people know now is the time to fix the leak rather than point fingers but this administration is all about pointing fingers.”

    From all the finger pointing in your comments, can we conclude that you’re not one of the “serious people?”

    You ask:
    “Why do some think it’s proper to bad mouth responsible companies when they have an accident?”

    I ask:
    Who cares who gets badmouthed? This is business, not personal. Get over it.

    Seriously….you guys need to get over this idea that being business-friendly and supportive of free markets means you have to defend individual companies.

  26. steve says:

    “I don’t assume BP has America’s best interest at heart.”

    Premex avoided payment from Ixtoc by claiming sovereign immunity IIRC. Exxon took 15-20 years to resolve its cases, and there were way fewer individuals involved. The history of the oil companies not paying up is the norm.

    Does anyone have good details on what exactly makes the fund illegal? I havent seen anything at Volokh yet.

    Steve

  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    I wish to apologize to this poor CEO for having to sit in front of and be questioned by this collection of flat earth baby sacrificing neo druids as they preform for the few live natural born voters that they have left.

    This is not a time for the ******* arbor day telethon, fix the ******* oil leak, And clean up the freaking mess!!!!!

    I think that liberals should put their money were their donkey poop comes out of and boycott all oil products. stop driving your cars, stop flying, stop riding your bikes, no more wacky hair do girls, stop taking trains, stop reading news papers, stop watching tv, stop going to the movies, turn off the computer and the sex toys. Hell most of you greasy oily hippy bastards should commit abortion on yourselves.

    Oil makes the world go round you silly jackalopes, crap if only taxes was made out of oil……

  28. grampagravy says:

    I have to disagree G.A. This is exactly the time to rethink and discuss oil dependence. Apathy takes over when the disaster fades from the headlines and no real progress away from oil is made.
    Let me suggest, rather than ending life as we know it, that it is time to demand a responsible energy policy that gradually weans America off oil in every respect except those that simply cannot be replaced by some other technology.
    Oil only makes the world go round because we let it. Eight Presidents have given lip-service to developing technologies that will reduce oil consumption and foreign dependence. The “silly jackalopes” are the people pushing for action on said lip-service. What’s your plan?

  29. wr says:

    GA — So the fact that we all need oil absolves oil companies from responsibility from their actions? Is this like diplomatic immunity? Hey, what if the CEO of BP rapes and murders a ten year old girl — does he get a pass on that, too? I mean, we all need oil. We drive in our cars. What’s the life of one little girl compared to that?

  30. grampagravy says:

    About the update and Barton’s retraction:
    Years ago, when my livelihood involved long periods of virtual isolation, I came up with this little tool for personal evaluation and improvement. I call it “Who I Am v. Who I Think I Am.” Who I am is what comes from me off the cuff without any forethought or serious consideration. Who I think I am is what comes from me after thinking a matter over or having feedback to consider. When the two are at odds with one another I take that as a sign that there is work to be done on who I am. It might involve being more compassionate, empathetic, or aware, but it might also be a question of being more upright in expressing my true beliefs.
    Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the REAL Joe Barton and all of his peers stand up?
    Or better yet, how about “you can’t have our vote unless you prove you are working on the discrepancy between your words yesterday and your words today–after you’ve had your a$$ kicked?”

  31. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****What’s your plan?**** for you people Who hate oil so much to stop using it completely to set an example, LIKE I JUST SAID……

    ****Let me suggest, rather than ending life as we know it, that it is time to demand a responsible energy policy that gradually weans America off oil in every respect except those that simply cannot be replaced by some other technology.****

    let me suggest that why you may have good intentions, and I love for that, you should know what the road to hell is paved with, here is a clue, it ain’t asphalt. But it might marxism mixed with hippy folk lore.

    ****Oil only makes the world go round because we let it.****no because we need it. and it is one of the main creation tools for most everything we know to be effective, so as we invent new technologies we need to use it.

    I make very little money which is my fault, but I have many friends who are still in the street, and not a one of us can afford you delusions of technology. crap I can barley manage to live with all your guys new taxes on me and now I have to come up with money for car and health insurance and then soon the tax breaks will expire, lol, add me to your tax burden were do I sign.

    hell I might have to vote for Obama next time so i can get some free cheese and a trailer, oh wait Im white and I was born here, worse yet Im a republican tax payer, im ******!

    ****Eight Presidents have given lip-service to developing technologies that will reduce oil consumption and foreign dependence. The “silly jackalopes” are the people pushing for action on said lip-service.****

    um ah um, Im pretty sure they are the cause of the problems not the solution, only because I pay attention mind you.

    ****So the fact that we all need oil absolves oil companies from responsibility from their actions?****
    hell no when did I even come close to suggesting that?

    ****Is this like diplomatic immunity? Hey, what if the CEO of BP rapes and murders a ten year old girl — does he get a pass on that, too? I mean, we all need oil. We drive in our cars. What’s the life of one little girl compared to that?***

    wr why don’t you leave the stupid comments to me, mine make sense and are funny.

  32. grampagravy says:

    C’mon G.A., tell us what you REALLY think. It is always fun to hear from someone who rides the bus and thinks he can afford to call himself a Republican!

  33. john personna says:

    Hey Steve P., know you’ll love this … and I quote:

    “These new facts also add to the massive evidence that BP has been criminally negligent.”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/did-bp-oil-well-really-blow-out-february-instead-april

  34. Herb says:

    G.A., are you serious? Or is this some kind of attempt at Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh style “entertainment? ”

    I mean, I was laughing by the time I got to the “free cheese and a trailer” part. Although, in an “at” kind of way rather than “with.” Such low ambition graft! You can have your free cheese and your trailer. I want a no-bid contract to spend the next ten years building a plane that no one will ever fly. Throw in some tax breaks and some friendly deregulation too, while you’re at it.

    Free cheese and a trailer…..

  35. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****C’mon G.A., tell us what you REALLY think. It is always fun to hear from someone who rides the bus and thinks he can afford to call himself a Republican!****

    lolI got a rusty *** tracker, thank you very much.

    And why would I not be a republican, because the democrats are for the little guy? I like freedom, saving babies, freeing slaves, God, our founding fathers, keeping the money I earn, being able to think for myself, and beating the **** out of nazi’s, communists, and muslim true believers and their lovers:) Im very conservative, well in principle, I used to be a liberal, and still have a bit of a leaning that way even that I know it is wrong.

    Then the gift of the holy spirit gave me the ability to see and make a choice, and let me assure you that I do not deserve it but let me assure you that it’s free to those who believe it’s truth and except it.
    I know I don’t try hard enough to be a good Cristian, or conservative for that matter, I have issues, but no excuses.

    So i’ll tell you this since you took the chance to ask and dint just run away from the mean old troll.

    I see and know and have experienced both sides of the paradox, I have never been wealthy like a Republican, lol, but have made good money and could have been somebody, but I chose to party and live a lie and the life of a fool, then I changed learned the truth found my way only to toss it all away again on the crack pipe and the bottle and the porn, but I have hope, and it don’t come from the words of a man no matter what he promised me, and I know I can change again.

    I know I can’t be like Jesus its impossible, maybe not even a stand up christian like some of my friends but i will stand up for you within reason. We can try to live by the laws and respect them and we can try to love one another this I think is possible, we live in the right country thank God but time is running out.

    I also think it’s impossible to be a liberal.

    My point is if you want to live on a flat earth like an oven and lamp less pagan go for it all of you, I’m sure you won’t even notice the rest of us, and you will be happy if what you say and believe is true.You will have done the greatest thing you think you can do to save this planet without forcing other to do the same, I mean there are so many of you I think it might work.

    Or invent replicator technology antimatter reactors before you go and take the basic building blocks and energy systems away from every one who likes to live a modern lifestyle.

    ****G.A., are you serious? Or is this some kind of attempt at Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh style “entertainment? ”****

    Im serious about my situation and the situation and the situations and the situational comedy of these hearings, sad and tragic as this oil spill is.

    And even that my single mother would never accept welfare and and worked her *** of to provide for me and my brother and many of my poor friends, my allowance was their allowance, our food was their food, our car was their car, etc, I did have many a grand nite taking my atari over and having government mack and cheese with the fellows, that stuff was good:)

    And yes I have been being a complete and sounded **** for too many months here and once again apologize.

    I have reverted to using stupidity once again to reach you instead of just talking **** back, I realize it is pointless and petty, as I have before, but I ain’t promising nothing, my damned hyper emotions take control some times, and I don’t do the proper things to control them, so once again forgive me, I really do have a good time here and truly do love everyone, heck every once in awhile I even think one of you liberals makes a good point, and I’m not saying its not hard for me to love everyone It’s a ************ from time to time but I do.

    I even love Neil or Bob or Hercules or what ever his name is but don’t tell him I said so because I will deny it.

    well enough about me I’m starting to sound like Obama…………..

  36. Neil Hudelson says:

    I didn’t really have time to read any of your crazy ramblings, but I did scroll down to the edge of the page.

    Awww, you’re sweet G.A.

  37. Georg Felis says:

    “Last week’s 60 Minutes is worth watching. If even half of it is true BP was negligent in the operation of the well as their concern for speed overcame their concern for safety.”

    If 50% of a 60 Minutes segment is true, that’s pretty high.

    Truth is, drilling for oil is a maze of tradeoffs. Do we use a 4 stack BOP or 6? 500 feet of concrete or 600? Drill another 500 feet to get better pressure or stop here? Anybody (or any trial lawyer) can come along later with 20/20 hindsight and puff themselves up with “Any fool could have seen that only 500 feet of concrete was a horrible decision.”

    And I’ll agree with the original comments from Rep. Barton. Those congressional inquisitions are simply a way for Our Representatives to puff themselves up in front of the cameras, grab a bat, and take a wack at the Political Pinata of the Day.