Joe Barton

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Joe Barton
Joe Barton official congressional photo.jpg
Chair of the House Energy Committee
In office
February 16, 2004 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Billy Tauzin
Succeeded by John Dingell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 6th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1985
Preceded by Phil Gramm
Personal details
Born Joe Linus Barton
(1949-09-15) September 15, 1949 (age 68)
Waco, McLennan County, Texas, USA
Political party Republican
Alma mater Texas A&M University, College Station (B.S.)
Purdue University, West Lafayette (M.S.)

Joe Linus Barton (born September 15, 1949) is a Republican politician, representing Texas's 6th congressional district (map) in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1985, and a member of the Tea Party Caucus. The district includes Arlington, part of Fort Worth, and several small towns and rural areas south of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. Following the 2014 primary defeat of Ralph Hall, Barton became the dean of the Texas congressional delegation. Barton came to national prominence when he instructed a citizen at a town hall meeting to "shut up".[1]

In terms of his positions, Barton is skeptical that manmade carbon emissions have contributed to global warming,[2][3] is a proponent of the use of fossil fuels,[4] voted in favor of the May 4, 2017 GOP plan to replace Obamacare,[5] supports President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from Muslim-majority nations,[6][7] and supports the death penalty for persons caught spying.[4]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Barton was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Bess Wynell (née Buice) and Larry Linus Barton.[8] He graduated from Waco High School. He attended Texas A&M University in College Station on a Gifford-Hill Opportunity Award scholarship[9] and received a B.S. in industrial engineering in 1972. An M.Sc. in industrial administration from Purdue University followed in 1973. Following college, Barton entered private industry until 1981, when he became a White House Fellow and served under United States Secretary of Energy James B. Edwards. Later, he began consulting for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Co., before being elected to the United States Congress, in 1984.[10]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



Barton made his first run for elected office in 1984, when he entered the Republican primary for Texas's 6th congressional district after three-term incumbent Phil Gramm left his seat to run for the United States Senate that year. He finished first in the five-candidate field with 42%[11] and very narrowly defeated Max Hoyt in the runoff with 50%.[12] He then defeated Democratic nominee and former State Representative Dan Kubiak 57%–43%.[13] Barton was one of six freshmen Republican U.S. congressmen elected from Texas in 1984 known as the Texas Six Pack.[citation needed] In 1986, Barton won re-election against Democratic candidate Pete Geren, who would later be elected to Congress from a neighboring district. Barton defeated Geren 56%–44%.[14]


During this period, Barton won each re-election with 60% of the vote or more.[15] His worst general election performance was in 2006, when he defeated Democratic candidate David Harris 60%–37%, a 23-point margin.[16] The 2008 election was his second worst performance, defeating Democratic candidate Ludwig Otto by a 26-point margin, 62%–36%.[17]

He was only challenged in the primary twice in this time period: 1992 and 1994. In 1992, he defeated Mike McGinn 79 to 21 percent.[18] In 1994, he defeated Jerry Goode 89%–11%.[19]


Because of the increasing controversy surrounding his record in office, election battles have been increasingly contentious. In 2011, a Super PAC was formed by Texas conservative groups to remove him and several other long-time incumbents from office.[20] The Democratic National Committee has used Barton's comments in political ads, shown nationally against all Republican candidates.[21] Several websites have been created and dedicated to simply removing Joe Barton from office. was created by Democratic challengers. All content was later removed, although the site is still owned.[22]

Barton drew three primary challengers: Joe Chow, mayor of Addison; Itamar Gelbman, a security consultant; and Frank C. Kuchar, a Dallas businessman and former preacher. Chow is Texas' first Asian-American mayor. He called Barton “the most corrupt congressman in the State of Texas.”[23] At the end of March 2012, Barton had $1.3 million in cash on hand, compared with $28,800 for Chow, $178,000 for Gelbman, and $463 for Kuchar.[24]


In the Republican primary on March 4, Barton won handy re-nomination to a sixteenth term in the U.S. House. He polled 32,579 (72.7 percent); his 2012 primary opponent, Frank Kuchar, trailed with 12,260 votes (27.3 percent).[25] On November 4, Barton handily won re-election over Democratic opponent Cozad. Barton serves as the Dean of the Texas Delegation for the 114th Congress.[citation needed]


Barton polled 55,197 votes (68.7 percent) in a three-candidate field for the Republican House nomination in the March 1 primary election. The runner-up, Steven Fowler, received 17,927 votes (22.3 percent).[26] To win his seventeenth consecutive term in the House, Barton then defeated in the November 8 general election the Democrat Ruby Faye Woolridge (born 1948) of Arlington, who had polled 22,954 votes (69.7 percent) in her earlier three-candidate Democratic primary.[27] Barton finished with 159,444 votes (58.3 percent) to Woolridge's 106,667 (39 percent). The remaining 7,185 votes (2.6 percent) went to the Libertarian Darrel Smith, Jr.[28]


Barton voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in both of its manifestations.[29][30]

In March 2011, Barton sponsored the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which would repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President George W. Bush. The 2007 law would set energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, effectively eliminating most or all incandescent light bulbs. Barton said "People don't want Congress dictating what light fixtures they can use."[31]

Congressional Action

Global warming and the environment[edit]

Barton rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.[40][41][42][43][44] In 2005, prompted by a February Wall Street Journal article,[45] Barton launched an investigation into two climate change studies from 1998 and 1999.[33] In his letters to climatologists Michael Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes, the authors of the studies, he requested details on the studies and the sources of the authors' grant funding.[46] An editorial by The Washington Post condemned Barton's investigation as a "witch-hunt".[47]

During former Vice President Al Gore's testimony to the Energy and Commerce Committee in March 2007, Barton said to Gore that "You're not just off a little, you're totally wrong", stating instead that "Global Warming science is uneven and evolving."[44][48] Climate scientists refuted Barton's assertion.[49] Barton has said that cloud shape is a primary factor in global temperature.[44][50] At a 2009 hearing on renewable energy, Barton said that large-scale wind power projects could slow down God's method for cooling the earth and possibly contribute to global warming.[51] Barton has questioned the wisdom of deficit spending to fund an extensive national wind turbine energy generation grid.[52]

Barton supports the Keystone XL pipeline.[41][42] In November 2011, Barton criticized President Barack Obama for delaying his decision on the Keystone pipeline. He said "We asked him to make a decision, not to wait another two years. That's bullshit.”[53] In 2013, when discussing the pipeline, he referred to the Genesis flood narrative in the Bible to argue that current climate change isn't man-made.[41][42][43][54]

Barton has a lifetime score of 6% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters.[55] Barton is "a long-time denier of global warming" according to Time magazine[44] and "a longtime skeptic of human involvement in climate change" according to HuffPost.[42] Barton "has proved especially proficient in climate change denial" according to Pennsylvania State University professor of atmospheric sciences Michael Mann.[56][57] "Barton has made a reputation for his outspoken rejection of man-made climate change, and for his support for the oil industry," according to Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian.[58] Barton has "mocked human-caused climate change," according to The New York Times.[59] Barton has been described as a "climate change denier" by Vice Media[60] and by Organizing for America[61] and as a "climate science denier" by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.[62][63]

Autism bills controversy[edit]

Barton tried to block the bipartisan Combating Autism Act of 2006. He said that the money steered toward environmental causes of autism was not the reason he blocked passage of the bill.[64]

The controversy stemmed from the conflict between two bills in the House and Senate. Barton introduced the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006,[65] while Senator Rick Santorum introduced the Autism bill. Santorum said in a CNN interview that the Senate bill was intended to be "fit into" Barton's bill in the House bill. He stated that "I was in constant conversation with him [Barton] and many House members all last week in an attempt to help the NIH bill come through the Senate, as well as try to move the Combating Autism bill through the Senate." Santorum stated that the Senate bill would investigate possible environmental causes, while the House bill would prevent that.[66]

Barton let the bill die in committee, which upset many people who were vocal about saying Barton had sacrificed the interests of autistic children in the interests of the oil and gas companies that donate heavily to his campaign.[67][68]

BP oil spill controversy[edit]

In June 2010, Barton accused the Obama administration of a "$20 billion shakedown" of oil giant BP after the company reached an agreement with the administration to establish an escrow account to pay the claims of people harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.[69] He made the accusation at the outset of a House hearing where BP's chief executive officer, Tony Hayward, appeared for the first time before Congress. Facing Hayward at the witness table, Barton said, "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize."[70] Prior to the establishment of the agreement, the Obama administration had been public in their criticism of BP for the oil spill.[70]

Barton's remarks were criticized by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and Vice President Joe Biden,[71] GOP congressional leadership[72] as well as by Barton's fellow Republicans, some of whom called on him to relinquish his leadership role in the House Energy Subcomittee.[73][74]

Barton later said that his earlier remarks had been "misconstrued" and that he believed BP was responsible for the accident. Later that day, he issued a statement apologizing for using the term "shakedown" and fully retracted his apology to BP.[34][75]

Health care[edit]

Barton favors repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).[76] Explaining why the American Health Care Act (the House Republicans' bill to repeal and replace for the Affordable Care Act) failed in March 2017, Barton said, "Sometimes you’re playing fantasy football and sometimes you’re in the real game. We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”[77][78]

2011 CREW report[edit]

The organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) put Congressman Barton on its CREW's Most Corrupt Report 2011.[79][80] The article states that on Barton's 2008 financial disclosure statement, he inaccurately reported on the source of a natural gas interest that he bought into. The share was purchased through a longtime donor and supporter who later died. This was discovered by the Dallas Morning News in 2010.[81] According to the Dallas Morning News article, Barton made over $100,000 on the investment. The article and CREW Report both point out how Barton buying this undervalued asset from an "advisor" on energy issues could be a conflict of interest to the Congressman's position as the Chair of the House's Energy Subcommittee. It quotes James Thurber, a professor of government at American University, as saying "If you are elected as a public servant to try to do what is right for the public generally and then you use that position to help bring in material wealth, I think it's unethical."[81]

CREW also reported that Barton paid his wife Terri $57,759 in salary and bonuses, from his campaign funds in the 2006 election cycle.[82] A spokesman said that Terri served as the campaign's outreach director and planned fund raising and special events.[32] Barton's daughter Kristin was paid $12,622 in salary and bonuses and his mother, Nell Barton, was paid $7,000 for a car.[32]

Position on crude oil ban[edit]

Barton expressed in September 2014, his full support of the United States lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports – an issue that sparked controversy among members of the Republican Party. Several research reports have found that exporting the glut of shale oil would ultimately lower U.S. and global fuel prices, rather than raise them, U.S. public opinion remains divided on the issue.[83]

Position on online poker[edit]

Barton has expressed his desire for pro-poker legislation to come into effect on a federal level and is hoping to introduce a new bill on the subject in April/May 2015. This bill would introduce a federal-level regulatory framework that would allow for online poker to be offered in all states.[84]

Immigration and travel[edit]

Barton supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order banning entry to the United States by nationals of seven Muslim-majority nations.[6]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

1993 U.S. Senate election[edit]

In 1993, Barton ran in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Lloyd Bentsen, who became United States Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration. Barton finished third in the contest, behind state treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison and Senator Bob Krueger, thus missing a runoff slot. He divided the more conservative vote in that election with House colleague Jack Fields of Houston.

Barton Family Foundation[edit]

The Barton Family Foundation was established in 2005 to support charities within the congressman's district. His daughter-in-law, Amy Barton, is the Foundation's Executive Director. Major energy corporations, such as the Chicago-based nuclear energy producer, Exelon Corporation, make major gifts to the Foundation. In June 2008, at a time when Barton had introduced legislation to assist corporations with the recycling of spent nuclear fuel, the corporation donated $25,000 to the Foundation. Exelon has also donated $80,000 to Barton's campaign funds. The Foundation gave $90,000 to the local Boys and Girls Club, this is the only recorded donation made by the Foundation in its seven-year history.[85]

Personal life[edit]

Barton divorced in 2015.[86] He has four children and five grandchildren.[10]

In December 2005, Barton suffered a heart attack and was taken to George Washington University Hospital.[87]

During a congressional hearing on video games, Barton said that he was a video game player, playing Civilization IV.[88]

Barton has been an advocate of a playoff system to determine a national champion for college football, even introducing legislation to require that any game being marketed as a national championship game be a part of a playoff.[89] On May 1, 2010, Barton grilled Bowl Championship Series coordinator John Swofford, saying of the BCS that, "It's like communism. You can't fix it." He also suggested that the 'C' be dropped from the BCS and it be called "the 'BS' system."[90]

Electoral history[edit]

Texas's 6th congressional district: Results 1984–2016[91][92][93]
Year Republican Votes  % Democratic Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
1984 Joe Barton 131,482 57% Dan Kubiak 100,799 43%
1986 Joe Barton 86,190 56% Pete Geren 68,270 44%
1988 Joe Barton 164,692 68% Pat Kendrick 78,786 32%
1990 Joe Barton 125,049 66% John Welch 62,344 33%
1992 Joe Barton 189,140 72% John Dietrich 73,933 28%
1994 Joe Barton 152,038 76% Terry Jesmore 44,286 22% Bill Baird Libertarian 4,688 2%
1996 Joe Barton 152,024 76% No candidate Skeet Richardson Independent 28,187 14% Catherine Anderson Libertarian 14,456 7% Doug Williams U.S.T. 6,547 3%
1998 Joe Barton 112,957 73% Ben Boothe 40,112 26% Richard Bandlow Libertarian 1,817 1%
2000 Joe Barton 222,685 88% No candidate Frank Brady Libertarian 30,056 12%
2002 Joe Barton 115,396 70% Felix Alvarado 45,404 28% Frank Brady Libertarian 1,992 1% B. J. Armstrong Green 1,245 1%
2004 Joe Barton 168,767 66% Morris Meyer 83,609 33% Stephen Schrader Libertarian 3,251 1%
2006 Joe Barton 91,927 60% David Harris 56,369 37% Carl Nulsen Libertarian 3,740 2%
2008 Joe Barton 174,008 62% Ludwig Otto 99,919 36% Max Koch Libertarian 6,655 2%
2010 Joe Barton 107,140 66% David Cozad 50,717 31% Byron Severns Libertarian 4,700 3%
2012 Joe Barton 145,019 58% Kenneth Sanders 98,053 39% Hugh Chauvin Libertarian 4,847 2% Brandon Parmer Green 2,017 1%
2014 Joe Barton 92,334 61% David Cozad 55,027 36% Hugh Chauvin Libertarian 3,635 2%
2016 Joe Barton 159,444 58% Ruby Faye Woolridge 106,667 39% Darrel Smith Jr. Green 7,185 3%


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  2. ^ Andy Kroll, November 3, 2016, Rolling Stone magazine, Why Republicans Still Reject the Science of Global Warming, Retrieved May 21, 2017, "...modern-day Republican Party, protecting fossil fuels ... was a religion ... didn't have a chance in hell of persuading someone like Barton to join his cause. ... open hostility to science and evidence and facts...
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  37. ^ Lawmaker to press for digital TV deadline: Broadcasters wary because of low adoption rate, Associated Press (April 19, 2005).
  38. ^ Dow Jones, FCC's Martin admits D-block spectrum bid unlikely, Mercury News (February 13, 2008).
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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Phil Gramm
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 6th congressional district

Preceded by
Billy Tauzin
Chair of the House Energy Committee
Succeeded by
John Dingell
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Sander Levin
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Pete Visclosky