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Price, Barton criticize BP escrow account


By and large, BP's agreement to set up a $20 billion escrow account for Gulf Coast recovery has been well received.

But not among a few conservative House Republicans. For example, Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R) -- chair of the Republican Study Committee -- issued a statement yesterday complaining that the fund was a White House "shakedown." *** CORRECTION *** We originally (and mistakenly) referred to Rep. Price as Dave Price, not Tom Price. We corrected the item and regret the error.

“We all agree that BP should be held fully responsible for its complicity in the oil tragedy in the Gulf,” Price said. "However, in an administration that appears not to respect fundamental American principles, it is important to note that there is no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account."

Price added, “BP’s reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics. These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration’s drive for greater power and control."

And today, Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) echoed Price's critique at before BP CEO Tony Hayward's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Barton is ranking member.

Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, Barton called the $20 billion escrow a "shakedown". "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," he said. "I think it's a tragedy of the first proportion." Barton added that if he, as a member of Congress, told a private company to put up money like that, "I'd go to jail and should go to jail."

Barton then said he apologized to BP. "I don't want to live a country where ... legitimate wrongdoing [is] subjected to political pressure."

In a sign of how politically problematic these comments could be for Republicans, House Minority Leader John Boehner's office tells First Read that Boehner disagrees with Barton's remarks. "Since Day One, Boehner has said that BP is entirely responsible for the cost of the disaster in the Gulf," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says.