Representative Joe Barton is the manager for the Republican team at the 2017 Congressional Baseball Game. The 67-year-old Texan was also a witness to the shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia ballpark where the Republican team was practicing. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was one of five people injured in the shooting and remains in critical condition.
Barton has been in Congress since 1985, representing Texas’ sixth Congressional district, which covers four counties south of the Dallas/Fort Worth area and parts of Tarrant County. He was born in Waco and chaired the House Energy Committee from 2004 to 2007. He is still a member of the committee and its related subcommittees. He’s also a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Barton is not married. He was married to Terri Barton until 2015 and has four children and five grandchildren.
Here’s a look at Barton’s life and career.
1. Barton Was at the Practice With his Sons When Scalise Was Shot
Barton was visibly emotional in an interview at the Capitol following the shooting because he was there with his 10-year-old son Jack. During the shooting, Jack slid under an SUV for cover. His eldest son, Brad, was also there.
“I got Jack, he crawled under a car with the bleachers between him and the shooter. It may have only been four or five minutes but to me it felt like 10 minutes,” Barton said during a press conference, nnotes the Washington Examiner. “He had 25 dads. Everybody out there was looking out for him, not just me.”
During the interview just after the shooting, Barton credited Scalise’s security detail with saving their lives. If Scalise was not there, U.S. Capitol Police wouldn’t have been at the practice since they only leave the Capitol grounds for members in leadership roles.
“I think the security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter,” Barton told reporters. “So the heroes are the Capitol Hill police, Alexandria police and Steve Scalise’s security detail.”
2. Barton Played in the Game From 1988 to 1993, but Is Now ‘Too Old to Play’
In an interview with Roll Call before the shooting, Barton said he played in the Congressional Baseball Game from 1998 to 1993, but he’s now “too old to play.” This is his first year as manager, since former Rep. Mike Oxley picked him to succeed him. However, he has coached during the game in the past.
“The baseball part of it is you decide who the starters are and who gets to play when — the batting lineup. On the non-baseball side, you have to coordinate the charitable activities,” Barton told Roll Call. “On the general manager side, probably the toughest thing I have to do is make sure all the players feel involved with the team. A lot of them still think they are in their athletic prime, which is not always true. And so you have to make sure that you listen to people.”
Barton told Roll Call that viewers should keep an eye out for Michigan’s Mike Bishop and Tennessee’s Chuck Gleischmann. Senator Jeff Flake has looked “really good in practice” and said Rodney Tavis is “a good catcher.”
“Our team is a better team than it’s been in the last five or six years,” Barton told Roll Call. “[Louisiana Democrat] Cedric [Richmond] gives them probably a plus three- or four-run advantage — he’s a great hitter and he’s a good pitcher. He’s a difference-maker. The good thing about the game is we really don’t have any sourpusses on either side.”
3. Barton Survived a Heart Attack in 2005
In 2005, Barton survived a heart attack. He was 56 years old at the time. According to Times Wire Reports, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said Barton had three stents inserted to open blocked arteries.
“He is alert, resting and in stable condition,” a Barton spokeswoman said at the time. “He is also unhappy to be absent, and we expect his return to work as quickly as his doctors complete their evaluation and release him.”
Ryan Thompson, who is still Barton’s Chief of Staff, told Roll Call in 2011 that he was in the room with Barton when he suffered his heart attack.
“It was one of the most amazing and scary days of doing the job,” Thompson told Roll Call.
Thompson has spent the majority of his career working for Barton. He was his political director at the time of the heart attack.
4. Barton Voted for the AHCA & Compared Health Care to Fantasy Football After the First Version Failed
After the first version of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) failed to even get a vote in the House, Barton was asked why Republicans were able to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so easily before but couldn’t do it now. He said those past repeals were like “fantasy football” because they knew President Barack Obama would never sign them.
“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” Barton told Talking Points Memo. “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.”
Barton also told Time Magazine that it was more difficult for Republicans to be unified now that they are the majority in the House.
Bartin is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and is one of only a few members who eventually supported the first version of the bill.
When the current version came up for a vote in May, Barton was among the 217 Republicans who voted for it.
5. Barton Got in Trouble With 2010 Comments During the BP Oil Spill Hearings by Apologizing to BP
During hearings after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Barton got into trouble with a comment to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Barton apologized to Hayward and called the BP-funded $20 billion fund to pay for damages a “shakedown.”
“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,” Barton told Hayward.
After even Republicans criticized him for his comment, Barton retracted the apology and said it was misconstrued, CBS News reported at the time. He stressed that he does believe that BP is to blame for the incident.
“I want to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible and should in every way do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident. And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction,” Barton said in a statement.
He continued, “I apologize for using the term ‘shakedown’ with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP …I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.”