House Republicans Hunt for Democrats To Back Oil Export Bill

Members of Congress and industry executives gathered outside the Capitol Thursday to showcase a glimmer of bipartisan support for lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports.

But they’ve got a long way to go.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is still the only Democrat in the House willing to publically endorse H.R. 702, saying that it’s necessary to “adapt to changing crude oil market conditions.” Before Cuellar, the bill from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), had only attracted Republican support.

But Barton is confident the bill will attract more support from across the aisle.“[Cuellar] Is the first, but won’t be the last” Democrat, he said outside the Capitol. Cuellar agrees: “Once we get this to the floor, more Democrats will come on board,” he said.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R–N.D.) is also confident. “I don’t think it’ll be long before you see a large bipartisan coalition supporting this bill,” he said.

“And some of them won’t be from Texas,” a smiling Barton added.

When asked if he could identify any of his colleagues from the left who’d support the bill, Cuellar wouldn’t say exactly who. “I have talked to a lot of Democrats… but I would rather have them come forward on their own.”

On the other side of the Capitol, the ban is a top priority of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska), who’s been working to build Democratic support in the Senate. She and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D–N.D.) introduced a bipartisan amendment Wednesday to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act that would end the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

“The antiquated policy that we’re talking about today didn’t have a lot of logic after we deregulated oil. And it has even less logic in the dangerous world that we live in today,” Heitkamp said on the Senate floor earlier this week.

Of course, the most important Democrat needed to lift the export ban sits in the Oval Office. President Barack Obama has expressed some willingness to reconsider oil export policies, and at the end of 2014 acted unilaterally to allow for the export of a certain class of lightly processed oil.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R–Okla.) was, perhaps, the most confident. “There’s a good possibility this bill is passed by this time next year.”

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