Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) has been either the Chairman or the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce since Billy Tauzin (R-LA) left to head a pharmaceutical association. Most of that time has been spent as Ranking Member. Although according to reports, he has been angling to stay put if Republicans take over the House in November, after his public apology to BP, speculation is that he might be gone before then.

Some of Barton’s language had been used by other in the Party – the influential Republican Study Group had just called the $20B escrow account that BP and President Barack Obama negotiated for Gulf reparations and “Chicago-style shakedown” and media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity had called it a slush fund.
But only Barton had the chance, at a hearing, to apologize directly to BP CEO Tony Hayward, which he did.

Barton quickly became a major news story, and will likely be a Democratic campaign theme all the way to November. Before the day was over, Barton had apologized for the apology at the behest of Republican leadership.

But at least two rank and rile member have asked that Republican leadership go further, and remove Barton from the top Republican spot on the E&C committee.

Whether or not that happens, the Republican caucus policy of limiting terms at the top of a committee would cause the removal of Barton from this post for the next Congress. Speculation is that he may last in his spot for the remainder of the 111th Congress, but his chances of staying on for another term in the 112th has been virtually eliminated.

There is least some good news for Barton. The latest word we’ve seen came from NRCC Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX), as reported by TalkingPointsMemo. Sessions told reporters that as he believes Barton will stay right where he is for the remainder of the year.

RBR-TVBR observation: If Barton goes, that moves Fred Upton (R-MI) into position for a promotion to the top of the Republican Commerce heap. He is a former Chair/Ranking Member of the Communications Subcommittee, and was the legislator who kicked off the ultimately successful effort to jack up the top-drawer fine for broadcast indecency violations up the $325K.