By Timothy Cama - 09/17/15 12:35 PM EDT
The House Energy and Commerce Committee took a major step Thursday toward allowing crude oil exports from the United States.
Three Democrats joined all of the Republicans on Thurday in voting for a bill that would lift the decades-old ban on exports. The tally was 31-19.
Republicans said the bill would benefit the economy, jobs, national security and other areas, while most Democrats decried it as a giveaway to oil companies that would threaten energy prices.
“America wins when we support free trade and open markets, and this bill would lift the 40-year-old restrictions on oil exports that President Ford signed into law in 1975. Much has changed since 1975 when these restrictions were imposed but the dramatic growth in domestic oil output over the last decade has flipped the script,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee’s chairman.
“Creating jobs, keeping energy affordable, boosting energy production, and improving our energy security — these are all important to folks in Michigan and across the country and a bill that accomplishes all four is worthy of all our support,” he said.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, said the United States needs the ability to take advantage of increases in international oil demand, and that domestic producers are uniquely able to do that if the export ban is lifted.
“If we don’t lift the restrictions on crude oil exports, we cannot utilize our strategic advantage in oil production,” he said.
Reps. Gene GreenGene GreenIn praise of trauma care—dozens saved by heroes of Orlando’s level one trauma center Dems who sat out the sit-in offer array of reasons GOP surprises with push for smaller ObamaCare changes MORE (Texas), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Toyn Cardenas (Calif.) were the only Democrats voting in favor of the measure.
Other Democrats said last week that they had hoped to negotiate changes that would allow them to support the bill, but most did not have their concerns met.
“H.R. 702 is a blunt object with broadly undermines 40 years of protections for national security, our economy, consumers and the environment. This bill looks backwards, rather than even considering the possibility of new energy solutions for our nation’s future,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the panel’s top Democrat.
The committee only passed one amendment to the bill through a voice vote. The amendment, from Green, says that the president retains his ability to stop oil exports for national emergencies, severe supply disruptions or for other purposes, similarly to nearly every other commodity that is exported.
President Obama is likely to threaten to veto the bill.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week that the Obama administration supports the current export restrictions, which the Commerce Department has the authority to ease, and opposes the House’s bill.