Senate Democratic leaders and an influential Senate Republican are pushing legislation that would hit back at OPEC+ following the cartel’s decision to cut oil production – with Sen. Richard Durbin questioning whether Saudi Arabia was even a U.S. ally.
The move comes after the international cartel stunned the administration by announcing a cut of 2 million barrels of oil per day – maintaining high prices amid economic uncertainty and keeping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oil lifeline going amid his brutal war on Ukraine.
Durbin joined Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer in floating ‘NOPEC’ legislation that, if enacted, would allow for lawsuits in U.S. courts to try to go after OPEC for violation of antitrust rules. It is cosponsored by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who is calling for a crackdown on the cartel.
‘You wonder, the United States has this nominal alliance with a country which doesn’t seem to share our values, and when it comes down to the time of war, the invasion of Ukraine, comes down on the wrong side. I question whether or not they are our allies and whether we ought to be trusting them when it comes down to critical decisions,’ Durbin said.
Sen. Richard Durbin, the majority whip, spoke of the ‘nominal alliance’ between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, following announced production cuts by OPEC+
He spoke a day after Schumer tore into Saudi Arabia for embracing Putin, an OPEC+ member.
‘What Saudi Arabia did to help Putin continue to wage his despicable, vicious war against Ukraine will long be remembered by Americans,’ Schumer warned Thursday.
‘We are looking at all the legislative tools to best deal with this appalling and deeply cynical action, including the NOPEC bill,’ he said in a statement.
Grassley touted his bill in a statement. ‘My bipartisan NOPEC Act would crack down on these tactics by the foreign oil cartel. It’s already cleared the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t pass as a part of our upcoming defense authorization effort. Our energy supply is a matter of national security.’
Durbin, appearing on MSBNC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Friday, cited a series of concerns with the Saudi Kingdom, which the U.S. has for decades made a partner on energy and security issues, and attacked the Trump Administration for maintaining ties.
‘Well, taking a look at the litany of problems we’ve had with Saudi Arabia, starting with 9/11, the unanswered questions, [murdered dissident] Jamal Khashoggi, still unanswered, the complicit nature of the Trump administration, which was a lap dog for the Saudi Kingdom, you take a look at what’s going on today, dissidents and women are being discriminated against on a whole sale basis in this country.
The administration has called the cuts a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to quickly move bipartisan legislation allowing for suits against the OPEC cartel
OPEC’s announcement comes three months after Biden’s infamous fist bump with Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The price cut comes as Russia, a major oil producer, continues it brutal war on Ukraine, which it is able to fund through oil revenues
President Joe Biden on Thursday was forced to defend his own efforts to handle the fraught Saudi relationship, after visiting the country in July and exchanging an infamous fist-bump with crown prince Muhammad bin Salman.
‘The trip was not essentially not about oil. The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and rationalization of positions. But it is a disappointment and says that there are problems,’ Biden said.
His administration said everything was on the table, but Biden was vague in his own comments on a potential response.
‘We are looking at alternatives. We haven’t made up our minds yet,’ Biden said as he left the White House for a trip to New York.
Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, says he plans to try to attach the NOPEC bill to the National Defense Authorization Act – considered a ‘must-pass’ bill.
The measure cleared his panel in May, and has passed the House. If enacted into law, it would revoke the cartel’s ‘sovereign immunity’ that shields the cartel from lawsuits and change U.S. antitrust laws.
According to a Grassley release, it ‘explicitly authorizes the Justice Department to bring lawsuits against oil cartel members for antitrust violations. It would clarify that neither sovereign immunity nor the ‘Act of State’ doctrine prevents a court from ruling on antitrust charges brought against foreign governments for engaging in illegal pricing, production and distribution of petroleum products.’
The announced production cut comes weeks before the November elections, at a time when Democrats are facing headwinds due to Americans’ concerns about inflation. Biden’s own popularity remains stuck in the 40s, and the White House has been stressing his actions to try to keep gasoline prices low.
Meanwhile, Biden announced at a fundraiser Thursday night that the world must take Putin’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine seriously, and that ‘We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.’