SPECIAL REPORT: Congress approves bills to stop oil diversion to SPR

| 5/14/2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 – Diversion of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve suffered a one-two punch from Congress when both chambers voted to stop adding more $100-plus a barrel oil to the stockpile.

Legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved with overwhelming majorities putting an end to pouring more oil into the reserve – until the end of the year.

The Senate voted 97-1 on Tuesday, May 13, in favor of an amendment that seeks to stop diversions to the SPR. The amendment is attached to legislation seeking to reform flood insurance, S2284.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-CO, was the lone “no” vote in the Senate. Two senators did not vote on the measure: Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK.

Later in the day, the House approved HR6022, the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer Protection Act of 2008,” with a vote of 385-25.

Talk of suspending the sending of high-priced oil to the reserve heated up in late March and early April – several months after President and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Jim Johnston sent a letter to President Bush calling for that very thing.

Johnston sent the letter to the president in late January. When Johnston sent the letter, oil was on an upward march to top $100 per barrel and diesel was averaging $3.25 per gallon – far less than the record high national average of $4.41 reported the day after Congress voted to cut off oil to the reserve.

Bush still hasn’t agreed to hold off on filling the reserve – even though it’s nearly at capacity. In fact, that proposal may become a reality – but not because the White House agreed to it. President Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that would impose a moratorium.

According to Congressional Quarterly, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday, May 12, that President Bush still opposes the move and in fact wants to expand the size of the reserve.

The threat of a veto appears to be a moot point, considering that the legislation passed both chambers of Congress with impressive majorities – both clearing the two-third majority needed to override a veto.

At this point, for the legislation to take effect, the two chambers have to roll their individual legislative efforts into one bill and send it to the president for a signature. If the president vetoes, as he has threatened to do, the legislation will be sent back to Congress. At that point, the two chambers can override the veto with the two-thirds majority votes.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor