rsz_ap10061718762Back in June, BP CEO Tony Hayward trudged up to Capitol Hill. In a series of hearings before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, lawmakers from both parties raked him over the coals for his company's role in the Gulf oil disaster. There was, however, one notable exception: Texas GOP Congressman Joe Barton, who famously apologized to Hayward for the way he felt the company was being unfairly treated by the Obama administration. The Democratic White House was carrying out a "shakedown," Barton explained, discussing the $20 billion escrow fund that BP had set up, under the White House's aegis, to pay out reparations claims from the Gulf oil spill.
"I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself, but I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," Barton said. "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."
Now, it seems, BP and other major players in the oil business might hope for more of this kind of solicitude from the House Energy and Commerce panel. With the Republicans seizing control of the House of Representatives last night, Barton, a past chairman and ranking minority member of the committee in the present lame-duck Congress, is now positioning himself to reclaim the chairman's gavel. But the controversy surrounding his apology to BP could come back to haunt him.
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