Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is being lobbied by members of both parties to pass bipartisan legislation that would ban sales from the nation’s emergency oil stockpile going to China over national security concerns.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, unveiled a measure Wednesday to prevent releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve going to China after at least 1 million barrels were purchased by the foreign adversary as part of a record drawdown last year by President Biden to blunt high gasoline prices.
But Mr. Schumer appeared to be unaware of the bill and unmoved by the House overwhelmingly passing a similar proposal last month that won the support of 113 Democrats. The New York Democrat, who controls the Senate floor schedule, suggested that such a policy should also apply to other foreign adversaries and demurred on whether he would allow a vote.
“I’ve seen the House proposal. Frankly, doing it to China — what about Iran, what about Russia?” he said. “We may think of adding some new countries.”
Under current law, sales from the SPR are required to be awarded to the highest bidder. Since October 2021, Mr. Biden has sold more than 250 million barrels, leaving the stockpile as its lowest level since 1983 and sparking national security concerns from mostly Republicans.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was intended to ensure that America had sufficient oil reserves in the event of an emergency,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement. “Under no circumstances should we sell any part of this stockpile to the Chinese Communist Party or any company under its control.”
Mr. Manchin touted the bipartisan nature of the House and Senate proposals, which are virtually the same with only minor technical differences. The passage of such a policy would mark an early win for a bitterly divided Congress.
“While the reserve has been a policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices and the global unrest caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the reserve is, above-all, meant to help the United States and our allies through difficult times, not to help China power its economy,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement. “This bill would ensure that we are not risking our energy security by selling our petroleum reserves to China, and the bipartisan support this legislation has received shows just how important it is for America to be energy secure and independent.”