During his opening statement at BP CEO Tony Hayward’s congressional testimony today, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) accused the White House of an illegal “shakedown” of the oil giant when it secured a $20 billion escrow fund for Gulf Coast damages. “I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen for a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is again in my words amounts to shakedown,” said Barton. “So I apologize.” Fox News asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) this morning if he agreed with Barton’s “shakedown” claim and Boehner declined to endorse it:
HEMMER: Would you call it a shakedown? $20 billion?
BOEHNER: I have said since the beginning that BP ought to be responsible for all of this clean up. And the fact is that they’ve agreed to put this $20 billion in escrow. I don’t know what context Mr. Barton was making that remark, but I’m glad that BP has accepted responsibility for their actions.
Boehner’s comment that he’s “glad that BP has accepted responsibility” by putting money in the fund puts him at odds with more members of his conference than just Barton. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, issued a statement yesterday calling BP’s agreement to the fund a “Chicago-style political shakedown.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called the escrow fund “a redistribution-of-wealth fund.”
Asked by CNN if he agreed with Barton, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) spoke favorably of the escrow fund, but said “the appearance of having the attorney general across the table, I’ll admit, that is troublesome.” “I don’t know if I would be quite as strong as Mr. Barton, but I agree with him that it was unseemly to have the attorney general, perhaps holding criminal papers in his hand, asking them to sign on the line,” said Burgess.