Rep. Barton weathers rebuke after his apology to BP
Only two members of the GOP have called on him to step down from his post as the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And after a private meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday morning, in which Barton again apologized, Republican Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said "the issue is closed" when asked if Barton would remain in his post.
"Mr. Barton apologized to the members for, in his words, his poor choice of words," Boehner said.
Other Republicans said they were also ready to move on from the controversy.
"Nobody knows his name [in my district]. When I was home, nobody mentioned him," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R), who represents southern Georgia, including some coastal areas. "People are not looking at it through politics."
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) said Barton should remain on the committee, saying "he has experience that is necessary and needed," because Barton is an engineer.
At a hearing last Thursday with BP chief executive Tony Hayward, Barton apologized for the U.S. government's treatment of the company and accused the administration of a "shakedown" after it reached an agreement with BP that called for the company to set up a $20 billion relief fund.
According to some who attended the meeting, Barton said that he was "blessed" with his position and that "I take my responsibilities very seriously." The congressman declined to comment to reporters about what he told his colleagues.
The GOP decided against ousting Barton even as Democrats have attempted to tar the rest of the Republican Party with the veteran lawmaker's comments. At the same time, conservatives have not rallied around Barton as they have other Republicans who have made provocative remarks over the past year.
Republicans donated more than $1 million in a week to show their support for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who shouted "you lie" at President Obama during a health-care address in September. Jim DeMint (S.C.) has turned himself into a GOP kingmaker despite his remark that a defeat on health care could be Obama's Waterloo.
But Boehner, even as he said Republicans would leave Barton in place, offered little support for the 60-year-old congressman, who represents a district near Dallas.
And top party aides have made clear Barton will not be tapped to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans win control of the House.
Outside of Washington, few conservatives are personally defending Barton, even if some, such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh, have said they largely agree with his sentiments.