Senate panel votes to lift 40-year-old US ban on oil exports

WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee endorsed a bill Thursday to lift the four-decade-old ban on crude oil exports, the latest sign of congressional support for legislation that President Barack Obama opposes.

The banking panel endorsed the bill, 13-9, on a largely party-line vote. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota sponsored the bill and was the only Democrat to support it.

Heitkamp said the bill would lower or stabilize gas prices, support jobs and increase U.S. influence abroad.

Despite the largely partisan committee vote, Heitkamp said she is optimistic that some Senate Democrats will support efforts to lift the export ban, which was imposed in the 1970s amid an energy shortage. Heitkamp’s bill is expected to be merged with larger legislation sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, before a vote in the full Senate.

“Putting an end to (the export ban) is a discussion we need to have by working together, and it shouldn’t be a partisan exercise or get bogged down by political poison pills,” Heitkamp said. “We have many options to move this policy forward and growing support for it. That’s good news for a common-sense, bipartisan policy.”

GOP leaders in the House and Senate support lifting the export ban, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee endorsed a bill to do so last month.

The White House opposes both bills, saying a decision on whether to end the ban should be made by the executive branch.

“Congress should be focusing on meeting America’s clean energy needs and our transition to a low-carbon economy,” said White House spokesman Frank Benenati.

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