Durbin: Strategic oil reserve release ‘desperately needed’

The Senate's No. 2 Democrat defended President Obama's decision to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying it was "desperately needed."

"The president’s action, I think, is needed, desperately needed to turn this economy around," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in an interview Monday.

On Thursday President Obama ordered the sale of 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s 727-million barrel reserve. The White House said the order was meant to combat supply problems due to turmoil in the Middle East.

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But Republicans have accused Obama of acting for political motivations, arguing the reserve should only be deployed in the case of national emergencies.

In the interview, however, Durbin, who is a close ally of the president, said the White House had acted for the right reasons. 

“I can’t say that this was a campaign strategy so much as an economic strategy,” Durbin said. “Is the campaign for reelection linked to the economy? Of course it is, but we want to get people back to work, and I think that we need to turn the tide and move towards building more jobs, and reducing gasoline prices is the great starting point.”

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"The economy is weak," explained Durbin. "When you ask major retailers across the United States what we need to recover, the first thing they talk about is the price of gasoline. Consumers who are spending more money to fill up the tanks are traveling less and buying less because of the price of gasoline.”

The White House has been careful to stay away from predicting how the move will affect gas prices.

“We don’t anticipate or predict prices. What we are addressing is an impact caused by a supply disruption. And at this time it’s necessary to do it because we’re about to enter into the season when demand is at its highest,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.