House Democrats Block Legislative Amendment to Prevent US Oil Sales to China
House Democrats Block Legislative Amendment to Prevent US Oil Sales to China

By Frank Fang

House Democrats have blocked a Republican effort to prevent the Biden administration from selling oil from the United States’ strategic reserve to entities with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) offered an amendment as a motion during a House floor debate on July 20, to recommit a legislative spending package (H.R.8294) consisting of six House appropriation bills for the fiscal year 2023. A “motion to recommit” is a common procedural maneuver that allows the House minority party to amend a bill before a final vote for passage.

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to her proposal (pdf), petroleum would be banned from export to China and to any entity that does not certify that it is “not under the ownership, control, or influence of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Before the motion was put to a vote, Valadao told his colleagues on the House floor that supporting the amendment was “common sense.”

“We need to focus on increasing energy production and not supporting our adversaries while Americans are still suffering from outrageously high fuel prices here at home,” Valadao explained.

Despite Valadao’s plea for support, his motion was rejected following a 219–206 vote, when House Democrats unanimously voted against it. Every House Republican voted in favor of the measure except five who didn’t cast a vote.

“Every single Democrat just voted to put China’s national security over our own,” Valadao wrote on Twitter following the result.

Rodgers also took to Twitter to criticize House Democrats, saying that “they’re sacrificing America’s energy security and national security.”

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) listens at a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy in Washington on July 14, 2020. (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), who voted in favor of the motion, also expressed concerns about what the result would mean for U.S. national security.

“Under no circumstances should we be sending America’s strategic oil reserves to China. It is a threat to our energy and national security,” Walberg wrote on Twitter. “Shameful that House Democrats blocked our amendment to prevent this reckless policy from the Biden administration.”

The Biden administration has been under fire over recent reports that revealed the U.S. Department of Energy sold 950,000 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to Unipec America, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned oil and gas company Sinopec.

Sinopec has been tied to Hunter Biden, who has been under scrutiny for his foreign business transactions with entities in countries including Ukraine, Russia, and China, during the time when Joe Biden was vice president under the Obama administration.

Hunter Biden walks to Marine One on the Ellipse outside the White House in Washington on May 22, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Washington-based nonprofit the Institute for Energy Research published a commentary on July 14, saying Biden has viewed SPR wrongly.

“The emergency reserves of oil that are in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are designed for international crises or for natural disasters, instead of being used for mitigating bad energy policy as Biden is doing,” the institute wrote.

The institute also detailed how China has been buying more Russian energy products since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. From March to May, China spent $18.9 billion on Russian oil, gas, and coal, nearly double the amount it spent in the same three months a year earlier. Additionally, China imported 28 percent more Russian oil in May than in April.

“With Biden supplying global oil markets with U.S. oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, he is depleting our oil reserves and hurting U.S. national security, while China is adding to its national reserves by buying SPR oil from Biden’s Department of Energy and by also buying cheap oil from Russia,” the institute concluded.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), a co-sponsor of Rodgers’s amendment, told a congressional hearing on July 18 that the Biden administration was moving in the wrong direction with its energy policies.

“Releasing oil from the SPR is not doing anything to lower gasoline prices. It’s a temporary blip. It is not the solution to the energy crisis Americans are facing today,” Duncan said.

“The oil being released—more than 1 million barrels per day—it really has nowhere to go,” Duncan continued. “Our refineries are full. Our pipelines are full.”

Duncan added, “As a result, America’s emergency reserves are being sent to China, which is using it to build up its own strategic reserves.”

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