Georgia US Rep. Greene's effort to curb president’s use of oil reserve passes on second try

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gives a television interview as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gives a television interview as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

File this one under, "If at first you don't succeed, try again."

A day after Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's effort to prevent the president from selling oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve sprung a major leak Thursday on the Republican-controlled House floor, failing in a lopsided 418 to 14 roll call vote with Tennessee and Georgia Republican and Democratic congressional members voting no, the Northwest Georgia congresswoman came back Friday with two new amendments.

Both of her amendments, which place other restrictions on the reserve's usage, passed on voice votes Friday morning. The underlying bill later passed on a 221-205 recorded vote with one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, joining Republicans.

"Yesterday I introduced an amendment that would take away the president's emergency power to sell our oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and give that authority back to Congress," Greene said in a floor speech Friday. "Since Joe Biden has become president, he has abused the emergency power and sold American oil to our enemies. China was the No. 1 buyer."

She later added "he will no longer be able to trick and deceive the American people by doing business with our enemies."

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, spoke against the amendment.

"Let me tell you what this is all about," Lieu said. "I can summarize this debate of the last two days into one sentence: Joe Biden lowered your gas prices and Republicans are upset about it."

Greene, who was first elected in 2020 and lost her committee assignments under Democratic control only to have them restored under GOP leadership, accused President Joe Biden of selling the oil to depress soaring gas prices so that 2022 midterm elections would "swing Democrats' way."

One of Greene's approved amendments to the bill states that nothing in the act "may be construed to authorize the president to make a determination ... that an emergency situation exists in order for the Secretary of Energy to draw down and sell petroleum products ... for political, non-emergency purposes."

Greene's second amendment "would force" the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the same level it was on the president's first day of office, she said.

Greene's loss Thursday on her original roll call vote amendment drew widespread news coverage as well as a taunt from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive New York congresswoman. The two representatives are known for taking post shots at one another, with each representing the hard-right and hard-left of their respective caucuses.

"Woof," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday following Greene's initial failure to amend the bill via the recorded roll call vote. "Even my psilocybin amendment did better than this."

Greene on Friday also lavished criticism of some news organizations for their coverage of her bill's initial belly flop.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, said in a statement following Friday's vote on Greene's revised legislation that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "was created to ensure that the United States has access to emergency oil reserves in case of disruptions to the global or domestic oil market.

"The SPR was never intended to be used as a political tool to cover up policy failures resulting from the Biden Administration's war on American-made energy," Fleischmann added. "Since November 2021, President Biden has drained an unprecedented 250 million barrels of oil, more than 40% of the stockpile, from the SPR, leaving it at its lowest level since 1984. Because of Biden's actions, America is at a high risk of not having the oil reserves we need to function in case of a national emergency."

Fleischmann and fellow Tennessee U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood and Tim Burchett of Knoxville all voted Thursday against Greene's amendment, as did Republican Andrew Clyde of Georgia. Because Greene's amendment Friday was on an unrecorded voice vote, it's not clear how they voted. But all four lawmakers voted for the final, amended bill in the recorded roll, according to the House website.

Biden announced the release in November 2021 as part of ongoing efforts to lower soaring fuel prices and to address shortages accelerating problems across the globe. The administration said last month it will start to replenish the reserve now that oil prices have gone down, The Associated Press reported.

House Republicans' overall bill has a slick uphill slope ahead of it in the Democratic-led Senate, where there initially appears to be few prospects for what has publicly been described as a "messaging" bill aimed at putting Democrats on the spot. Even if successful in the upper chamber, it would likely face a veto from Biden.

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