Top Ethics Republican Asks Barton to Step Aside

Posted June 18, 2010 at 3:14pm

Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.) on Friday became the second Republican lawmaker to call on Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to step down as ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee over his apology to BP for facing White House pressure to create a compensation fund for Gulf oil spill victims.

Bonner, who is the ranking member of the Ethics Committee, said Barton’s comments to BP CEO Tony Hayward during a Thursday hearing — that BP was the victim of a “$20 billion shakedown” by the White House — were “stupid and extremely insensitive” to Gulf Coast residents. Barton later apologized, but Bonner called his response “at best, half-hearted” and suggested he only did so to “save his position on one of the most influential committees in Congress.”

“I believe the damage of his comments are beyond repair and, as such, I am today calling on Joe to do the right thing for our conference and immediately step aside as Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Bonner said in a statement. Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) on Thursday was the first GOP Member to call on Barton to step down. Republican leaders immediately condemned Barton’s remarks but have not suggested he give up the top slot on the panel.

The Alabama Republican said he talked to Barton Friday morning and told him that he would call for him to step aside on the committee.

“I hope Joe Barton will think more of those citizens along our Gulf Coast who are struggling with this unprecedented disaster than of his own desire to retain his ranking member seat on Energy and Commerce. I hope Joe will do the right thing,” Bonner said.

The White House also continues to hammer Barton over his remarks: White House spokesman Bill Burton on Friday ripped the Texas lawmaker over the “tortured construction of his misconstruction statement” on the matter and raised questions about him retaining his committee slot given the panel’s powerful role in overseeing the oil spill.

“If Republicans were in control of the House, Joe Barton is the man who would be the chairman of that committee. So that’s just something that I think people will be considering moving forward here,” the White House spokesman told reporters.