GOP LETS BARTON OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE…. As recently as Monday, the “vultures were circling” around Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), following his groveling apology to BP during a public hearing last week. Democrats pounced, and several leading Republicans took pains to distance themselves from the right-wing Texan.

But Republican humiliation appears to have faded, and Barton is apparently off the hook.

House Republicans who condemned Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and threatened to yank his position atop the Energy and Commerce Committee have backed off and will let Barton remain the party’s top lawmaker on the panel.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who rebuked Barton for his BP apology last week, told the House Republican Conference Wednesday morning in a closed door meeting that it’s time to move on.

“Joe has done the right thing by apologizing — it’s time to move on,” Boehner told his Republican colleagues, according to multiple sources in the room.

As far as I can tell, Democrats couldn’t be more pleased. If Republicans threw Barton under the bus, removed him from his committee post, and guaranteed he wouldn’t be the next committee chairman next year, the majority party would have had a slightly harder time exploiting the controversy. But for whatever reason, the GOP has done Dems another favor — Barton apologized to BP, and Republicans aren’t going to do anything about it.

Indeed, he’s also apparently welcome back on the fundraising circuit — Barton will be in Florida next week, helping Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) raise some money.

So, it’s back to business as usual for the Party of BP.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.