Key Democrat to vote against House crude export bill

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Democratic Rep. Gene Green of Texas last night said he would vote against a House bill to lift the country’s crude oil export ban, a decision that took the legislation’s Republican author, also from Texas, by surprise.

Green said during an interview that Republican Rep. Joe Barton rejected his amendments to H.R. 702, legislation lifting the decades-old ban on exporting domestic oil. The bill has drawn the support of more than 130 co-sponsors, including a number of Democrats.

Green said he recently offered two amendments ahead of today’s Rules Committee markup and Friday’s floor vote, but he quickly added that Barton wouldn’t budge.

“Unless something changes, what I heard today, I’ll probably vote against it and speak against it Friday,” Green said.

Barton in a subsequent interview said he wasn’t aware of Green’s position. Barton also noted that Green was one of only three Democrats to support the bill when it passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month on a 31-19 vote (Greenwire, Sept. 17).

“He voted for it in committee,” Barton said. “I’m disappointed; I didn’t know that. It’s his right.”

Green’s first amendment to Barton’s bill would have allowed the president to impose requirements or restrictions on exports for up to one year in the case of a national emergency or for national security reasons. The president could also implement curbs on exports if they were to cause shortages or sustained prices far above world market levels or if those levels affected employment.

The second amendment would require oil exporters to receive a permit from Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

But Barton said the proposals would work against the overall effort of opening up the markets to U.S. crude oil.

“His permit amendment would gut the bill,” Barton said. “The whole point is to create a free market, willing buyers, willing sellers.”

Barton’s bill last night also ran into rare opposition from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which for months has been pushing to lift the export ban. The group released a statement, arguing that “a last minute addition to the bill has entangled good policy in corporate welfare and a $500 million labor union buyoff.”

House leaders added provisions extending the authorized spending levels for private vessels that aid the U.S. military under the federal Maritime Security Program.

But the Heritage Foundation said that language, which attracted the support of maritime organizations, amounted to unnecessary bidding to entice the industry.

“The payoff is even more incredible considering that a new president — who will take office in about 15 months — has the authority to lift the ban,” the group wrote. “There is no reason lawmakers should cede to the cronyist demands of longshore unions and a handful of massive, international shipping companies.”

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.