In Juneau, when a state lawmaker doesn’t want to take a vote, she’ll wander down the hill to buy a cup of coffee at Heritage Coffee Company or The Rookery. A trusted aide will call her when the vote is over.
In Washington, DC today, Rep. Mary Peltola did the equivalent of a coffee run: She just didn’t vote on the bill that would de-politicize the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a bill that is intended to ensure national security.
On Thursday and early Friday, Peltola did vote yea or nay on dozens of amendments to HR 21, the Strategic Production Response Act. But for the final passage, she was a no-show. All Democrats present voted against the bill; Peltola was one of eight representatives who did not vote.
HR 21 would prohibit the president and the Department of Energy from tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve without having a plan in place to increase oil and gas leasing on federal lands — unless there is a dire emergency and need for immediate release of oil for American security.
The measure was prompted by the Biden Administration’s quick drawdown of the nation’s critical oil reserves at the same time President Joe Biden has declared a war on domestic oil production. Biden, over the past 18 months, has released the largest amount of crude oil from the emergency reserves of any president in history. And he did it leading up to the 2022 elections, which made his actions look political.
It’s unknown why Peltola chose not to vote. She issued no statement. It may be that she is not supporting oil development, but instead is supporting her husband Gene Peltola’s new carbon trading company.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat and one of the eight who did not vote, said she didn’t because “I do not support opening up more federal lands and waters for drilling of fossil fuels, as my Republican colleagues are promoting.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, also withheld her vote without explanation, but Democrat Emmanuel Cleaver of Missouri wrote, “HR 21 is just another #BigOilGiveaway, paid for by American families. I’m voting NO!” In fact, he did not vote.
All Democrats who did vote were no votes, and the bill passed, 221-205.
In the Senate, Republican Sens. Jim Risch of Idaho and John Barrasso of Wyoming, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced the Strategic Production Response Act, which has a difficult path in the Democrat-controlled Senate .
“President Biden depleted America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to attempt to fix his self-made crisis,” Risch said. “The Strategic Production Response Act will ensure the SPR is used correctly, prevent any president from misusing the reserve, and prioritize our domestic energy supply.”
“America is stronger and safer when we are energy independent,” Barrasso said. “The Biden administration agenda is to choke off energy development on federal land. Our legislation will prevent President Biden from raiding the SPR for political purposes without boosting American oil production. It’s time to work together to lower prices for Wyoming families, unleash American energy, and strengthen our national security.”
Cosponsors of the Senate’s version of the SPR Act are Republican Senators Mike Lee (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), John Hoeven (ND), James Lankford (Okla.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss .), Roger Marshall (Kansas), and Kevin Cramer (ND).
Read the text of the Senate’s SPR Act here.
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