GOP blames Biden for gas prices after pushing for Russian oil ban

The House is moving to pass a Russian oil ban on the heels of Biden's decision.

March 8, 2022, 7:29 PM

The House is set to vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill that would codify the Biden administration's ban on the import of Russian oil and energy products into the U.S., review Russia's access to the World Trade organization and strengthen the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act so that the U.S. can further sanction Russia.

The vote would be remarkably fast-paced for legislation -- bypassing the usual legislative process in a clear indication that lawmakers want to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and quickly. The measure has broad bipartisan support across both sides of the aisle and is expected to pass in the House.

But Republicans, while they commended the administration for its Tuesday announcement to ban Russian oil, quickly turned critical of gas price hikes, as some members of the House accused President Joe Biden of allegedly turning his back on U.S. oil and gas production as the administration potentially weighs making oil deals with Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

"First of all: President Biden, stop begging dictators to produce the energy that we need here in America. Don't go to Russia. Don't go to Iran. Don't go to Venezuela when the answer is right beneath our feet. It's time for President Biden to say yes to American energy," House Republican Whip Steve Scalise told reporters during a press conference.

One after another, House Republicans took turns to criticize the administration.

"Never should we think that foreign oil is better than American independence when it comes to energy," Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico said.

"We're sleeping in the bed that we made," Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas said. "That's what happens when you allow energy policy to be dictated by children in Europe, by woke investors on Wall Street, and by politicians who actually think that electric passenger vehicles are going to solve an energy crisis and the climate crisis."

"We don't need to be buying Russian energy, but we don't need to be buying Iranian energy or Venezuelan energy. We need to produce energy of all forms and all types here in the US and do it better than anybody else in the world," Westerman added.

PHOTO: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise speaks at a House Republican news conference on energy policy at the U.S. Capitol, March 8, 2022 in Washington, DC.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise speaks at a House Republican news conference on energy policy at the U.S. Capitol, March 8, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. August Pfluger of Texas said Biden should meet with oil and gas executives and companies while he is down in Texas today.

"In addition to his pre-planned meetings, what he should be doing is meeting with oil and gas executives and companies," Pfluger said. "Instead of calling on terrorist regimes to fulfill our needs, what he should be doing is calling on the domestic producers who know better than anybody else in the world, how to produce the supply of energy that not only we need, but that our partners and allies around the world need."

"The president's first phone call should have been to the mayor of Midland, Texas, not to Maduro," he added.

On the House floor Tuesday, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy hit Biden for shuttering the Keystone XL pipeline last year.

"Democrats want to blame surging prices on Russia. But the truth is, they're out of touch policies are why we are here in the first place. On Day 1, the President canceled the Keystone Pipeline and stopped new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters. Then, he gave the green light to Putin's pipeline," McCarthy said.

"If we want to lower prices and protect the environment, we must prioritize American energy independence. We have the natural resources under our feet. We have the best workers in the world: drilling the wells, building the pipelines, running the rigs, and extracting the gas in the cleanest way possible," he said.

"We just need politicians who will get out of the way," he added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the legislation in a letter sent to democrats Tuesday. Her announcement to codify a ban comes on the heels of Biden's announcement earlier Tuesday to ban Russian oil and energy imports.

Pelosi last week forcefully threw her weight behind a potential oil ban and at the time, signaled legislation would be imminent.

"Because this legislation is an urgent imperative – both morally and for our security interests – the House will consider this legislation on the floor today. It is our hope that we have a strong, bipartisan vote," Pelosi said in a letter sent to Democrats.

The vote in the House on Wednesday comes after the White House urged lawmakers not to go forward with the legislation that was crafted with Republicans over the weekend, according to several Congressional aides familiar with discussions.

One of the White House's main concerns was that the package would not allow the president to roll back the new Russia sanctions if Russian President Vladimir Putin deescalated in Ukraine - it would've required another act of Congress. The White House, according to an aide, felt like the legislation would box them in.

Democrats have since made changes to the legislation as originally envisioned based on conversations with the White House, making it unclear how many Republicans will support the bill on the floor tomorrow.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leaves a Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol, March 8, 2022, in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leaves a Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol, March 8, 2022, in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

It's also unclear if the House bill would move forward in the Senate.

"We first have to see what the House passes, and then we'll discuss things with the administration and find the best way to make sure that the oil import ban is tight and tough," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

House Democrats commended Biden's announcement and rebuffed criticisms that the administration only acted after lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation to force its hand.

"I don't think that anything has created any pressure," House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries told reporters Tuesday morning.

"He's been very clear-eyed and transparent with the American people all along the way," Jeffries said of Biden. "I'm very confident in President Biden's continued leadership and I don't think anyone has pressured him into doing anything."

The decision to ban Russian oil and energy imports is likely to cause more pain at the pump for Americans, which lawmakers are keenly aware of.

Jeffries acknowledged the high gas prices Americans are currently facing and vowed that the Democratic Party would do what it can to relieve the pressure on wallets.

"It's certainly my hope that my Republican colleagues won't continue to play politics with an existential crisis for Ukraine, for Europe, for the West and for democracy because that is what is at stake right now. And we have to apply maximum pressure on Vladimir Putin and Russia until it ceases and desists with respect to its aggression and the slaughtering of innocent individuals in Ukraine. It may be some sacrifice that is required across the world," Jeffries said.

"Certainly, we are seeing incredible sacrifice by the Ukrainian people," he added.

Jeffries also hinted that the administration could potentially ask Americans to work from home for the time being to help ease the gas crisis and avoid the daily commute.

Asked if he thinks the federal government and businesses should consider changing their policies, even as the COVID crisis has eased up, Jeffries said: "I don't want to comment on any specific steps that the administration may be contemplating, but I think everything should be on the table in terms of an all-hands-on-deck approach. It's not just an all of government moment. It's an all of America moment."

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki made clear Tuesday that the White House isn't about to ask Americans to cut down on their gas consumption.

"Well, we're neither going to make a prediction...nor are we going to tell Americans to stay home," Psaki said.

ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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