On Tuesday, I attended a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on “Allowance Allocation Policies in Climate Legislation.” By and large, the testimony came from economists and executives from affected industries. But there was one exception: Rev. Dr. Maria Castellanos of the United Church of Christ.

Rev. Castellanos was there to make a moral plea. She pointed out the immense suffering climate change is imposing and will impose on the global poor, and appealed to Congress to step up to its ethical obligations and protect those most vulnerable.

A minute or two into her testimony, ranking minority member Joe Barton (Tex.) — who had heretofore been paying close attention, having, after all, been the one to insist on the hearing in the first place — sighed, picked up a newspaper, and began reading. Conspicuously. I asked Meghan McNamara, sitting next to me, “Is Barton reading the newspaper?”

She peered in his direction. “Yes,” she said. “It’s the sports section.”

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So there you have it. Joe Barton wants it to be very clear to the Reverend that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about her moral appeal.

[UPDATE: Aaron Wiener at the Washington Independent writes to note that this is not the first time Barton has used the newspaper as a deliberate insult in a hearing. He did the same thing to venerable Republican Sen. John Warner (Va.) at a hearing in April. Stay classy, Smoky Joe.]

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