Van Hollen: Joe Barton revealed GOP's true stance on Big Oil
In another sign that Dems will stop at nothing to keep the Joe Barton story alive, the chief of Dem efforts to hold the House just said in an interview that Barton had inadvertently revealed the GOP's true posture towards Big Oil -- and vowed Dems would hammer this point relentlessly in the weeks ahead.
DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen also told me that the retraction of Barton's apology to BP was meaningless, because his original statement was "passionate and heartfelt."
"Joe Barton said publicly where the majority of Republicans stand on energy -- protecting the big oil companies," Van Hollen argued, pointing to the fact that the Republican Study Committee, which has over 100 members, has called the BP escrow fund a "shakedown."
"Michele Bachmann has also been critical of the president for holding BP accountable," Van Hollen argued. "This goes way beyond Joe Barton. It's part of a larger pattern where Republicans in Congress are on the side of big corporate interests."
Van Hollen said this isn't going away: "We're going to be making the point again and again that Joe Barton's comments on big oil [show] Republicans in the House stand on the side of big corporate interests against consumers and taxpayers."
I pointed out that John Boehner has come out in support of lifting the Big Oil liability cap. Van Hollen replied: "He's also been leading the charge against our effort to move this country in the direction of clean energy policy."
Van Hollen also insisted there was no significance to the fact that GOP leaders had condemned Barton's remarks as "wrong." He said: "What Barton said expressed the views of a huge chunk of the Republican caucus."
Asked to respond to claims that Dems were using Barton to distract from Obama's failure to stop the spill, Van Hollen said: "I've not heard one idea from any of these Republican criticis about how they would plug the hole."
Asked if the spill would remain a serious political liability for the president until it were stopped, Van Hollen demurred: "I think the question will be, Is the president taking charge of making sure that the mess is cleaned up? Is he doing everything humanly possible to stop the leak? That's the test."
UPDATE, 5:01 p.m.: Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responds:
"Rep. Van Hollen and Washington Democrats stand with BP in supporting a 'cap and trade' national energy tax. House Republicans are standing with the American people against them. Boehner has been crystal clear on our priorities: we want to stop the leak, clean up the Gulf, and make sure BP pays the entire cost."
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