Senate Democratic leaders and an influential Senate Republican are pushing legislation that would hit back at OPEC+ after the cartel’s decision to cut oil production — with Senator Richard Durbin questioning whether Saudi Arabia was even a US ally.
The move comes after the international cartel surprised the administration by announcing a cut of 2 million barrels of oil a day – keeping prices high 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 passed, would allow for lawsuits in US courts to try to go after OPEC for violating antitrust rules. It is co-sponsored by Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who is calling for a crackdown on the cartel.
“You wonder, the United States has this nominal alliance with a country that doesn’t seem to share our values, and when it comes to the time of war, the invasion of Ukraine comes down on the wrong side.” I question whether they are our allies and whether we should trust them when it comes to critical decisions, Durbin said.
Late. Richard Durbin, the majority whip, spoke of the “nominal alliance” between the US and Saudi Arabia after announced OPEC+ production cuts
He spoke a day after Schumer tore into Saudi Arabia to embrace 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 act, 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 foreign oil cartel tactics. It’s already cleared the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t pass as part of our upcoming defense authorization effort. Our energy supply is a matter of national security.’
Appearing on MSBNC’s “Morning Joe” Friday, Durbin cited a number of concerns with the Saudi kingdom, which the United States has partnered with on energy and security issues for decades, and attacked the Trump administration for maintaining ties.
“Well, when you look at the many problems we’ve had with Saudi Arabia, starting with 9/11, the unanswered questions, [murdered dissident] Jamal Khashoggi, still unanswered, the complicit character of the Trump administration who was a lap dog for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you take a look at what’s going on today, dissidents and women are being discriminated against on a whole sales basis in this country.
The administration has called the cuts a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin
Late. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to quickly move bipartisan legislation allowing lawsuits against the OPEC cartel
OPEC’s announcement comes three months after Biden’s infamous fistfight with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The price cut comes as Russia, a major oil producer, continues its brutal war against Ukraine, which it is able to finance through oil revenues
President Joe Biden was forced Thursday to defend his own efforts to manage the Saudi Arabian relationship after visiting the country in July and exchanging an infamous fistfight with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
‘The trip was basically not about oil. The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and the rationalization of positions. But it’s a disappointment and says there are problems,’ Biden said.
His administration said everything was on the table, but Biden was vague in his own comments about a potential response.
‘We are looking at alternatives. We haven’t decided 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 passed into law, it would lift the cartel’s ‘sovereign immunity’ that protects the cartel from lawsuits and change US antitrust laws.
According to a statement from Grassley, it “expressly 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 deciding antitrust charges against foreign governments for engaging in illegal price-fixing, production and distribution of petroleum products.’
The announced production cut comes weeks before the November election, at a time when Democrats are facing headwinds due to Americans’ worries about inflation. Biden’s own popularity remains firmly in the 40s, and the White House has emphasized his actions to try to keep gas 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 haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.’