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Joe Barton accuses White House of '$20 billion shakedown' of BP

Joe Barton, Republican congressman from Texas, accused the White House Thursday of a '$20 billion shakedown' of BP over the Gulf oil spill.

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Joe Barton accuses the White House of a '$20 billion shakedown' of BP on Thursday. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas listens to opening statements from members of Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2010, prior to BP CEO Tony Hayward testifying before an Energy and Environment subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on the role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill.

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

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A leading House Republican accused the White House Thursday of a "$20 billion shakedown" of oil giant BP by requiring the company to establish a huge fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Rep. Joe Barton made the assertion at the outset of a House hearing where BP's chief executive officer, Tony Hayward, was appearing for the first time before Congress.

Facing Hayward at the witness table, the Texas Republican congressman said, "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House" on Wednesday. Barton was referring to the agreement that President Barack Obama announced with BP for establishment of a $20 billion relief fund.

Rep. Ed Markey sharply disagreed with Barton.

Markey said the compensation fund was "not a slush fund, not a shakedown. ... It was the government of the United States working to protect the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our country right now, the residents of the Gulf."

"It's BP's spill," the Massachusetts Democrat said, "but it is America's ocean, and it is America's citizens who are being harmed. ... No, this is not a shakedown of the company."

"This is, in my opinion, the American government working at its best."

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