Republicans fuming after Obama threatens to veto major energy bill

Congressional Republicans are fuming after the White House threatened to veto a bill that would repeal the 40-year ban on crude oil exports, with GOP lawmakers saying the repeal is urgently needed to boost the economy and bolster national security.

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 But repeal supporters say the policy is now outdated -- and failing to repeal it would cost jobs.

"This would be hundreds of thousands of jobs for hard-working Americans across the supply chain," Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who sponsored the bill, told

Repeal backers argue the ban was passed in an era of oil scarcity, and the U.S. is now seeing an era of energy abundance that the American economy should capitalize upon. The bill calls for the removal of all restrictions on the export of crude oil, claiming this "will provide domestic economic benefits, enhanced energy security, and flexibility in foreign diplomacy."

The White House however, called the bill unnecessary and announced Wednesday the president’s advisers would recommend vetoing the bill, which is due to be voted on in the House Friday.

“Rather, Congress should be focusing its efforts on supporting our transition to a low-carbon economy. It could do this through a variety of measures, including ending the billions of dollars a year in Federal subsidies provided to oil companies and instead investing in wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other clean technologies to meet America's energy needs,” the statement said.

'Nothing surprises me about this president anymore.'

— Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

Barton called the decision "disappointing and anti-jobs."

"The continued ban on American crude oil exports, while Iran would be able to export oil, makes no sense strategically and is not in our national interest," he said.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. – one of original co-sponsors on the bill -- told he wasn’t surprised by the veto threat, and hoped to be able to challenge it by passing the bill with large bipartisan margins in both chambers.

“Nothing surprises me about this president anymore,” Cramer said. “Let me say I want to challenge it by a big number on the vote total, and I hope the Senate can do the same.”

Cramer said that North Dakota, the epicenter of the crude oil boom, has seen a loss of thousands of jobs amid diving oil prices and growing efficiencies in oil production that squeeze workers out of the production system. He says the way to reverse that job loss is to repeal the ban and open U.S. crude oil to a global market.

“In North Dakota, [repeal] would have a favorable effect. ... The key to making more money is to sell more of the product in an era of low prices. So greater access to more buyers would create more opportunities and more jobs.”

Supporters say it isn’t just oil-rich states like North Dakota that would be affected, but the U.S. as a whole.

“Even experts within the administration recognize that free trade in oil could benefit American consumers and create U.S. jobs,” Louis Finkel, executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement.

However, environmental groups have supported the Obama administration’s skepticism on the issue, claiming that lifting the ban would only benefit Big Oil.

“Lifting the 40-year old ban on exporting crude oil does nothing to help the average American family, as it would only raise gas prices while lining the pockets of wealthy polluters,” the League of Conservation Voters said. “Thankfully, President Obama is looking out for the interests of all Americans by opposing this harmful bill. Congress shouldn’t be doubling down on the dirty fuels of the past, but should instead be focusing on building the clean energy economy of the future.”

Republicans also have argued that lifting the ban would bring national security benefits, as U.S. allies might be less likely to rely on Russia and possibly even Iran for their oil needs.

“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.

Despite the president’s veto threat, Cramer said he was confident and hoped to be able to put significant pressure on the president, with a bipartisan vote on a bill that already has a number of Democratic co-sponsors.

“I’m pretty confident we have the votes in the House. The question is how many people on the fence can we bring along? A large number tomorrow adds political pressure in the Senate,” Cramer said.