The Republican-controlled House passed legislation Friday that would impede President Joe Biden in selling oil from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) stockpile to foreign entities.
The bill passed by a 221-205 vote on Capitol Hill. The measure will next go to the Democrat-led Senate.
Friday’s bill can be construed as a referendum on Biden’s energy policies from the past two years, most notably selling off barrels of oil from the SPR supply, amid little resistance from the previous Congress.
On Thursday, House Energy and Commerce Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., explained the renewed urgency in replenishing the SPR stockpile.
“At present, the SPR’s ability to protect Americans has been put at risk by this administration,” said Rodgers in addressing the House floor.
Rodgers also noted how the SPR was designed for getting through emergency disruptions — such as hurricanes or other natural disasters — by not artificially bringing down the price of gasoline before national elections.
Another function of Friday’s bill would oblige the Biden administration to make all sales of SPR supplies contingent to Biden approving more oil- and gas-drilling leasing on federal lands.
Since November, according to the Washington Examiner, Biden has authorized the sale of more than 250 million barrels of oil from the SPR stockpile, dropping levels to its lowest point in more than 40 years.
Last spring, Republicans opposed Biden’s decision to sell off 180 million barrels of oil to foreign nations.
In the fall, the Biden White House was reportedly rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and other big Gulf producers in their so-called “urgent” request to delay a major reduction in oil production (2 million barrels per day), just days before OPEC and its allies announced the decision.
U.S. officials “warned” Saudi leaders that a drastic cut in oil production would be universally viewed as OPEC siding with Moscow in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Conversely, the Saudis felt the Biden administration was only concerned about the expected rise of gasoline prices in America affecting the results of the November midterm elections.
Earlier this week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm warned House Republicans that Biden would veto the bill, claiming the legislation would cause crude-oil shortages, raise fuel prices nationwide, and potentially hinder national security.
The Republicans’ bill “needlessly aims to weaken the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s usefulness as a tool to ensure energy security in America,” Granholm said.
Regarding reports of the SPR dwindling by as much as 40% under Biden’s watch, Granholm told reporters, “I have no concerns that we will be able to refill and replenish the SPR, [the Strategic Petroleum Reserve], and do it at a savings to taxpayers.”
The Examiner reported that Senate Republicans introduced a “companion” bill this week, designed to preclude the Biden administration from depleting SPR, without first outlining a timely plan to refill the stockpile.
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