House votes to lift 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports

Sept. 15, 2015: A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Company near Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Reuters)

Sept. 15, 2015: A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Company near Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Reuters)

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday that would lift the 40-year-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, a restriction that critics say hurts job creation and U.S. national security.

The House approved the bill on a bipartisan 261-159 vote. However, the White House has threatened to veto the bill should it make its way to the president’s desk, calling it unnecessary and arguing that the decision rests with the commerce secretary. 

The bill heads next to the Senate. While it easily passed the House Friday, the 261-vote tally falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. 

The export ban was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975 in response to the oil embargo by Arab OPEC nations against the U.S. for its support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But repeal supporters say the policy is now outdated -- and failing to repeal it would cost jobs.

"In my view, America's energy boom has the potential to reset the economic foundation of our economy and improve our standing around the world," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said in a statement.

"Let’s use the peaceful tools of energy development while creating jobs in America [to] replace the weapons of war in Europe and the Middle East. Let’s use our influence for good by selling this American made product – produced by American workers. Let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion today,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said Friday.

Cramer, one of the original co-sponsors on the legislation, had told FoxNews.com Thursday that Republicans hoped to get a significant bipartisan vote in the House in order to put pressure on the White House and challenge the veto threat.

Meanwhile, opponents say the bill would only benefit oil companies.

"This bill is an unconscionable giveaway to Big Oil at the expense of American consumers," said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.

Selling U.S. oil to foreign markets would result in higher gas prices at the pump and ultimately benefit China and other economic rivals, Castor said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said the bill is not needed as long as the U.S. continues to import millions of barrels of oil every day.

"Every barrel exported by this bill will have to be replaced by a barrel of imported oil," she said.

However, supporters of repeal  have said that, should the ban be lifted, U.S. allies might be less likely to rely on Russia and possibly even Iran for their oil needs, which would have important national security benefits for the U.S.

“It is unfortunate that the White House fails to understand the national security and geopolitical benefits of lifting the ban on oil exports,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., said in a statement Thursday.

FoxNews.com’s Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.