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House passes bill to expand oil production on federal lands amid Biden veto threat

GOP-led House is now operating under an open amendment rule that hasn't been used in seven years, which allows any lawmaker to propose an amendment and defend it on the House floor before a vote takes place.

Published: January 26, 2023 3:30pm

Updated: January 27, 2023 2:11pm

The GOP-led House of Representatives passed the Strategic Production Response Act 221-205 on Friday, which President Biden is expected to veto if it passes the Senate.

The House debated the legislation on the House floor Thursday, where amendments to the bill were voted on for the first time in seven years. Lawmakers were able to defend their amendments on the House floor before each vote took place. 

"This marks the first time in nearly seven years that the House will consider legislation under a modified-open rule," read the House Rules Committee notice to House members. "Any member wishing to offer an amendment must submit their amendment into the Congressional Record for pre-printing at least one day prior to consideration."

The goal of H.R. 21, or the Strategic Production Response Act, is to "provide for the development of a plan to increase oil and gas production under oil and gas leases of Federal lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Defense in conjunction with a drawdown of petroleum reserves from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."

The measure would require federal officials to devise a plan to match an SPR drawdown with a plan to increase the percentage of federal lands leased for oil and gas production.

"Except in the case of a severe energy supply interruption ... the Secretary may not execute the first drawdown of petroleum products in the Reserve," according to the bill, "... until the Secretary has developed a plan to increase the percentage of Federal lands (including submerged lands of the Outer Continental Shelf) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Defense leased for oil and gas production by the same percentage as the percentage of petroleum in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is to be drawn down in that first and subsequent drawdowns." 

The bill caps any prospective increase in the percentage of federal land leased for such efforts at 10%.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said this week that Biden plans to veto the bill if it passes Congress, arguing that it would weaken the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"H.R. 21 would impose unnecessary, unhelpful restrictions on when the SPR can be used to help provide supply," she said at a White House press briefing. "It would require these arbitrary reports regarding energy production on federal lands before waiving any new restrictions. It would not offer any tangible benefits to the American people. Instead, it would interfere with our ability to be responsive to release oil during an international emergency, helping Putin's war aims."

Granholm concluded with a veto threat and a swipe at the new House majority. "So I’ll be very clear: If Congress were to pass H.R. 21, the President would veto it," she said. "He will not allow the American people to suffer because of the backwards agenda that House Republicans are advancing."

The bill moves to the Senate for consideration. 

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