GOP lawmaker sees 'excellent chance' to lift crude-oil export ban

Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas) thinks his bill to repeal a decades-old ban on crude oil exports would have an “excellent chance” of passing the House and Senate next year.

“I do think in the next Congress we’ve got an excellent chance either as a stand alone or as a part of a larger bill and I think it will be bipartisan,” Barton told reporters on Tuesday. 

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“I think we will have a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats” behind it, he added.

Barton will unveil his legislation on Tuesday ahead of a Thursday hearing by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power, which will focus on oil exports.

He admitted there is work to be done on educating other lawmakers about the issue. Barton has spoken to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who he said is open to having a discussion about exports.

“He has not committed to it one way or another, but he is receptive,” Barton said of Upton.

A number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have yet to weigh in on the issue of expanding oil exports, as there are concerns surrounding the impact on consumers and refiners.

“The argument against it is more of a regional argument if you have big refineries, some of the refineries are against it but they are not vociferously against it because over time they will benefit,” Barton said.

The chairman of the Energy and Power subcommittee holding Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldBottom Line Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? MORE (R-Ky.), has yet to say whether he supports lifting the 40-year-old ban.

“I am open minded about it right now. I haven’t really made a public decision about where I think I am on it, but hopefully after one or two of these hearings I’ll have a better idea,” he told The Hill on Tuesday.

Whitfield said a majority of the Republican conference is “really focusing on the issue now” however, and hopes the hearing will provide a better picture of possible impacts.

“These hearings we hope will give us a better understanding of No.1 whether or not we need legislation, and No. 2 the long-term or short-term consequences of passing legislation and the impact that will have on the American people,” Whitfield said.

The recent move by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries not to cut production, Whitfield said, puts more pressure on U.S. producers, which means there is “probably going to be more pressure to allow exports.”

“But I think all of us who have a responsibility for passing legislation would want to have a better understanding of really what are the consequences of this,” he added.

Support for lifting the ban has grown in the Senate with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) taking the lead on the issue.

Murkowski, unlike Barton, is pressing the administration to take executive action rather than pursue legislation that lifts the ban outright.

Barton said on Tuesday that he thinks legislation is the “cleaner” route rather than leaving it to the Commerce Department to approve exports for certain companies on a case-by-case basis.

“It would be much cleaner to just change the basic underlying law,” Barton said, adding that he is open to talking with his Senate colleagues about more options.