GOP Congressman Says the Real Oil-Spill Tragedy Is How We’re Treating BP

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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

During this morning's ongoing congressional hearing featuring BP CEO Tony Hayward, Republican congressman Joe Barton of Texas called the victim's trust fund that was agreed to yesterday a "slush fund," and said it was "a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would call a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown." Barton then apologized to BP, and said he doesn't want to "live in a country where every time a corporation does something wrong, it's subject to a political process that amounts to a shakedown."

Oddly enough, Barton is not alone among Republicans who think it's just awful that BP was persuaded to repay the people whose lives it has destroyed with its negligence and complete lack of emergency preparedness. The Republican Study Committee, a group of 115 Conservative House Republicans, for example, called the creation of the fund a "Chicago-style political shakedown." Guess we know how many in the GOP feel about helping the "small people."

BP boss Tony Hayward faces Congress - live blog [Guardian UK]

Update: The White House has already pounced on Barton's remarks, releasing this statement: "What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.” [Politico 44]

Update II: Joe Barton has apologized for his earlier comments: "I think BP is responsible for this incident," he said. "If anything I have said this morning has been misconstrued, I want to apologize." [WSJ]