Biden on Barton: ‘Incredibly out of Touch’

Posted June 17, 2010 at 3:56pm

Vice President Joe Biden slammed Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) for being “insensitive” and “incredibly out of touch” for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward for pressure on the oil company to create a $20 billion fund to aid victims of the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

Biden said it is “outrageous” and “astounding” that Barton, the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, told Hayward in a hearing Thursday morning that it was “a tragedy” that the White House met with BP executives Wednesday to press them to create the fund, a meeting that Barton referred to as “a $20 billion shakedown.”

“I just think that it’s pretty important to the people of Louisiana all the way through Florida — and even in his home state of Texas — that people disassociate themselves from that,” Biden told reporters in a White House news conference Thursday afternoon.

The purpose of the fund is to “take care of the immediate needs of people who are drowning” as a result of BP’s oil spill, the vice president said. “What is wrong with that? How is that a shakedown?”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs all but called on Barton to step down from his leadership role on the committee — a call already being echoed by some Republican lawmakers.

“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,” Gibbs told reporters.

Asked whether he was explicitly calling on Barton to hand over his post, the White House spokesman said, “I will let Republicans make that decision.”

Gibbs noted that he briefed President Barack Obama on the incident and said the president just “shook his head and couldn’t understand why anybody would say something like that.”