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Republicans happy with Barton apology, but disagree on the 'shakedown'

After Rep. Joe Barton apologized for criticizing the way BP had been treated politically, I asked two Republican members to address the substance of his remarks -- that the government's creation of a $20 billion escrow fund, with BP's money, amounted to a "shakedown."

Rep. John Campbell (R-Ca.)

RN: Are you happy with Joe Barton's apology? Do you feel that he should lose his post?

CAMPBELL: I don't agree with what Joe Barton said, and I'm glad he apologized, but if not agreeing with what somebody said was cause to remove him as ranking member, then I don't think I could ever become a ranking member.

RN: Do you agree with his argument about how we're handling BP and the fund?

CAMPBELL: I think Barton was making the argument that this was unfair to do to a private company. Well, yes, they are private company, and they made this deal. It was their deal to make and I'm not disputing it. But if the Obama administration is as effective in administering the payment of claims on this money as they have been in cleaning up after the spill, then it's going to be a disaster. And I suspect it's not going to do this very well. I mean: Can I go and make a claim? Do I have to prove it? Or do I just say, hey, I need some of this money because I feel bad? Are friends and supporters of President Obama going to get more than they otherwise would have? I just think we should have a more independent adjudication of this than we will by handing it to a czar.

CAMPBELL: We've seen TARP. We've seen that a lot of that was not handled fairly. BP is a private, independent company. It should pay everything -- no one disputes that. This was their rig, and it's their fault. But politically, it makes it seem like it's the president handing out money. Well, it's not his money, it's the money of the shareholders of BP.

Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.)

RN: Do you welcome Joe Barton's apology? Do you think he should lose his post?

CAO: I'm glad that Barton apologized for his apology. I know him as a friend, and I know him as a leader in the conference, I know that he is a very caring person. He cares for his constituents as well as mine. He constantly would come up for me, after I won, to ask how New Orleans was coming along. When I heard what he did and was asked the question about, I was absolutely shocked -- that was not the Joe Barton that I know.

RN: He was not the first Republican to call this a "shakedown," though. Do you agree or disagree with that characterization?

CAO: It's not a shakedown -- this trust fund is absolutely necessary. There is always a fear that BP might file for bankruptcy and that there won't be any money to pay claims, so I am glad there is an escrow account to protect against that. I pushed for the fund one week after the spill, when BP came to my office and we discussed what was going on, what had happened, what to do to help the impacted parties. I proposed it because I knew a similar fund was instituted after the Exxon Valdez spill.

RN: You're satisfied that the money will be managed effectively?

CAO: Yes, I'm glad that there is an independent party overseeing this money. One of the criticisms of the Exxon Valdez fund was that the money was not all used to benefit injured parties, and some was used for something extraneous. I'm glad an independent party will focus on serving the needs of those affected by oil spill. If in the future we find that this third party really obstructs the process, impedes the task of people affected by this disaster being made whole, we'll look at that.

By David Weigel  |  June 17, 2010; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  Energy  
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