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House Republicans Vow to Advance Strategic Petroleum Reserve Bill

January 25, 2023 by Dan McCue
GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — House Republicans vowed Wednesday to move ahead with a vote on a bill restricting the president’s ability to tap the strategic petroleum reserve, despite a promised veto from the White House.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference held at RNC headquarters, GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said the caucus would hold a vote “to end Joe Biden’s assault on American energy independence” before the end of the week.

Specifically, Stefanik and her colleagues in the House Republican leadership accuse the president of having “depleted the strategic petroleum reserves … to cover up for his anti-American energy agenda.”

“The strategic petroleum reserve is for emergencies, not Joe Biden’s political points,” the congresswoman said Wednesday morning. “The oil in our strategic petroleum reserves is only supposed to be used for national security events, but Joe Biden has sold nearly 40% of our stockpile since being elected.”

Stefanik went on to assert that the strategic petroleum reserve is now at its lowest level in her lifetime and that China now sits on the world’s largest government-controlled stockpile of oil.

President Biden has repeatedly tapped the reserve in the past year in response to a surge in oil prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased demand that accompanied the U.S. recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last March, Biden announced a record 180 million-barrel sale over the following six months. 

A subsequent sale brought the total up to more than 211 million barrels and drove the reserve’s level to its lowest since late 1983. (Stefanik was born in 1984.)

Republicans accused Biden of using the sale for political purposes ahead of the midterm elections, and the retail price of gas at the pump did drop precipitously beginning last summer.

In December, the administration announced plans to begin refilling the reserve, with the Energy Department putting out an initial request for 3 million barrels.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at the time that she is confident the United States will be able to refill the strategic petroleum reserve and will save taxpayers money while doing so by buying oil at a lower price than the government paid for the original supplies.

But those post-election developments did nothing to mollify Republicans who won a slim majority in the House in the midterms.

“This week, House Republicans will continue to implement our commitment to America,” Stefanik said. “We will pass a bill to prevent abuse of the strategic petroleum reserve and require Joe Biden to put forth a plan to increase domestic production.

“It is long past time to unleash American energy and restore our standing on the world stage,” she said.

The bill the House will vote on, H.R. 21, also known as the Strategic Production Response Act, was introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who now chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As Stefanik said, it would limit presidential authority in releasing oil from the strategic reserve, except in the case of a national emergency causing a severe supply disruption. It would also require the president to produce a plan to increase oil and gas production on federal lands.

Though it could pass the House, it faces considerably tougher sledding in the Senate.

In a letter delivered to the Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday, Granholm said if the bill somehow passed both chambers, Biden would certainly veto it on the grounds that it would undoubtedly cause crude oil shortages, raise gasoline prices and undermine national security.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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