White House downplays China oil bill that 113 Democrats voted for as 'non-issue'

The legislation, which would ban oil sales from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Chinese companies, hasn't been voted on in the Democrat-led Senate yet.

Updated: January 24, 2023 - 11:15pm

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The White House is downplaying a bill banning oil sales from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China that passed in the House with the support of 113 Democrats.

"This bill addresses a non-issue; we’re very clear on that," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday when asked if President Biden supports the bill.

"We're focused on advancing legislation that would lower costs for American families, not raise them," she added. 

Jean-Pierre did not say whether Biden would sign the bill if it passes out of the Senate.

The legislation, titled the Protecting America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act, passed 331-97 in the GOP-led House but hasn't passed in the Democratic-led Senate yet.

"The bill prohibits the Department of Energy (DOE) from selling petroleum products (e.g., crude oil) from the SPR to any entity that is under the ownership, control, or influence of the Chinese Communist Party," according to a summary of the legislation. 

Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), introduced a similar bill on Tuesday that would ban oil sales from the SPR to China and other "hostile nations."

In the past, the White House has said the U.S. Energy Department is required by law to sell oil released from the SPR "'in a competitive auction to the highest bidder,' regardless of whether that bidder is a foreign company." 

Biden has released millions of barrels of oil from the SPR in an effort to increase supply and lower prices for American consumers. The Energy Department is now in the process of replenishing the SPR.

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