Barton Keeping His Job Could Benefit Both Parties

Barton, on Capitol Hill last month, could become a Democratic punching bag. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Republican sources tell Politico that embattled GOP Rep. Joe Barton will keep his ranking status on the House Energy and Commerce committee after his controversial apology last week to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Politico cites multiple sources in a caucus meeting, where Minority Leader John Boehner said that Barton had “done the right thing by apologizing [for making the strange apology to BP]—it’s time to move on.”
Boehner’s decision is certainly the most strategic way to make the story go away. Giving Barton the boot would revive the story for another cycle, and keep it alive as a replacement for Barton was chosen and publicly vetted.

But the strategy is also risky for the GOP, which had its back to the wall last week as top leaders distanced themselves from Barton in the face of fierce attacks from Democrats. With Barton staying put, those attacks certainly won’t end. Democratic strategists have vowed to keep the story alive until November. Indeed, after news broke that Barton’s job was safe, the Democratic National Committee sent a blast to reporters calling the news “excellent” and then prompted reporters to “expect more of this from us.”