Normally, I don’t much care what individual Congressmen say. There are 435 of them; If you put 435 of anything, doctors, lawyers, whatever in front of television cameras, some of them are gonna say stupid things. Most of the representatives come from districts that are gerrymandered to insure electoral victory. Because of that, there is a tendency for some of them to say goofy things in both parties. All they’re doing is feeding red meat to their partisans within the district.

Yesterday, as most of us know, the House Energy and Commerce Committee met yesterday. The main witness was BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward. When it was Joe Barton’s turn to deliver a statement at the hearing, Barton apologized to Hayward for the White House ‘shakedown’ on Wednesday and that Barton was ashamed that BP had to deal with this. He read the statement from prepared notes, rather than it just being an off the cuff comment. Why should anyone care what a congressman from Dallas says? The problem for Republicans is that Barton is the ranking member of the committee, that is, the one who, if the Republicans win back the House in the fall, will be the committee chair and arguably the most powerful Republican in Washington on energy policy.

When the committee recessed, Barton was called to a meeting with John Boehner, Minority Leader, and Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, who demanded that Barton rescind his apology or lose his powerful position. Joe, when the hearing resumed, sort of apologized DC style. He said that his views were being misconstrued. I think he figured he had gone the extra mile.

Here’s why we should care about the Barton comments. We all remember, during the fall of 2006 and in the fall of 2008,that a big part of the Republican campaign was that, if too many Democrats were elected, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker, Charles Rangel would be Chair of Ways and Means, and Barney Frank would be in charge of the Banking Committee. These became the poster children for the party; nobody cared about what a backbencher says, but when an individual is in charge of determining money and priorities, then people pay attention.

John Boehner has never much liked Joe Barton, apparently. His distaste increased when Barton challenged him for the Minority Leader position. So, for awhile, he may just allow Barton to swing from the rope that he put up himself. But eventually he will be removed from his position, I think. Republicans can’t afford to be associated with him in the middle of an election campaign.