What Joe Barton actually said to BP CEO Tony Hayward

McClatchy NewspapersJune 17, 2010 

These are the verbatim remarks of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, to BP CEO Tony Hayward in which he apologized and referred to a $20 billion fund BP agreed to set up under White House pressure as a "shakedown." Barton later apologized for the apology. The remarks were distributed by the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton is the senior Republican on the committee.

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Hayward, for appearing before us.

"We have kind of a dual track underway, in my opinion. We obviously are trying to gather the facts on what happened in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a month and a half ago. We’re trying to find out the causes of that spill, what can be done to prevent it in the future. We’re obviously very concerned about the mitigation and cleanup.

"We have a system in America, built up based on the British tradition over 200 years, of due process and fairness, where people who do bad things, in this case a corporation responsible for a bad accident, we want to hold them responsible and do what we can to make the liable parties pay for the damages. Mr. Stupak and Mr. Waxman are doing an excellent job working with Dr. Burgess and myself in conducting a very fair oversight investigation. We’re going to get into a number of those issues in this hearing and we’re going to ask you some pretty tough questions.

"Now I’m going to speak totally for myself. I’m not speaking for the Republican party, I’m not speaking for anyone in the House of Representatives but myself – I’m ashamed at what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy in 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. The attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participated in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund. That’s unprecedented in our nation’s history, has no legal standing and which sets, I think, a terrible precedent for the future.

"If I called you into my office, and I the subcommittee chairman, Mr. Stupak, with me, who was legitimately conducting an oversight investigation on your company and said if you put so many millions of dollars in a project in my congressional district, I could go to jail, and should go to jail.

"There is no question that BP owns this lease. There is no question that BP made decisions that objective people think compromised safety. There is no question that BP is liable for the damages. But we have a due process system where we go through hearings, and in some cases court cases and litigation and determine what those damages are and when those damages should be paid. So, I’m only speaking for myself – I’m not speaking for anybody else – but I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or corporation that does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.

"On this hearing today, I am with Mr. Waxman, I am with Mr. Stupak. There are questions that need to be asked that are legitimate, because we don’t want another oil spill of this magnitude, or of any magnitude, in the Gulf of Mexico. If this subcommittee can do things that make it much more difficult for this type of incident to occur in the future, then we will have done our work for the American people.

"With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

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