Sometimes, all politics really is local

SOMETIMES, ALL POLITICS REALLY IS LOCAL…. Responding to Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) public apology to BP yesterday, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), whose Pensacola district is already feeling the brunt of the spill, announced that he’d like to see Barton step down as the ranking member of the House Energy Committee. Today, another House Republican followed suit.

Rep. Jo Bonner called on fellow Republican Rep. Joe Barton to step down as ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Friday following the Texas Republican’s controversial statements to BP chairman Tony Hayward on Thursday.

“Earlier this morning, Rep. Barton called me to offer his personal apologies for any harm that his comments might have caused,” said Bonner, whose district covers much of Alabama’s coastline.

“It takes a big person to admit they were wrong and I appreciated Joe’s call,” Bonner continued. “However, as I told him, I believe the damage of his comments are beyond repair and, as such, I am today calling on Joe to do the right thing for our conference and immediately step aside as Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

In his statement, Bonner called Barton’s apology “stupid.” As for Barton’s walk-back, Bonner called it “at best a half-hearted apology” intended to “save his position on one of the most influential committees in Congress.”

In case it’s not obvious, it’s worth noting that both Bonner and Miller represent Gulf Coast districts. This isn’t ideological — Bonner and Miller aren’t moderates — this is a classic all-politics-is-local moment. Gulf Coast lawmakers, even conservative Republicans, are reluctant to look like BP toadies right now. Barton made the entire Republican Party look bad yesterday, so it’s not surprising that lawmakers like Bonner and Miller would take the opportunity to impress voters back home, party be damned.

The end result, of course, is another round of headlines about the controversy, which is the last thing Republican leaders hoped to see.