WASHINGTON -- Who's sorry now? Rep. Joe Barton, that's who.
The Texas Republican from Arlington apologized Thursday for apologizing earlier in the day to the chief of the British company that befouled the Gulf of Mexico with a massive oil spill.
His double mea culpa plus a retraction was made under pressure from fuming GOP leaders. It succeeded in shifting attention from the tragedy, BP's many missteps and the stoic British oil chief at the witness table, to his own party's close connection to the oil industry.
Barton, who's received $100,470 in oil industry campaign contributions, had first apologized to BP CEO Tony Heyward about a $20 billion relief fund for victims of the spill sought by the White House and agreed to by BP.
That brought outrage from Republicans, who came close to stripping Barton of his post as chairman-in-waiting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GOP leaders summoned Barton to the Capitol and demanded he apologize in specific terms. The leaders threatened to launch a process to strip Barton of his seniority on the powerful panel, a particularly painful threat to any long-term lawmaker, according to two knowledgeable Republican officials.
Barton represents Leon County in the US House, and formerly represented Bryan/College Station.
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