WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced late Wednesday that it "strongly opposes" a repeal of the crude oil export ban, an issue many Texans are trying to push through Congress.
Citing environmental concerns, the administration issued a statement on the legislation, H.R. 702, saying that if the president "were presented with H.R. 702, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
The U.S. House is expected to approve the repeal Friday when it votes on the bill, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.
Aides to several Capitol Hill lawmakers have interpreted the administration's statement as a veto threat. Overriding a presidential veto would require the support of two-thirds of the U.S. House and Senate.
That dynamic means a number of Democratic votes would be needed to pass the bill into law, creating more work for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who is a point person for rounding up party votes to back the repeal.
For the last 40 years, American companies have been restricted from exporting crude oil onto the international market. The law dates back to the days of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, causing global oil prices to jump. President Gerald Ford signed the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act banning crude oil exports with few exceptions, aiming to retain oil domestically and protect against price shocks.
While there is bipartisan support among many members of the Texas delegation, there is opposition to a repeal from environmentalists and members who represent refineries, which will probably take an economic hit if a repeal comes to pass.
Texas Republican reaction to the administration's stance ranged from anger to despondence on Wednesday evening.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, only learned of the Obama administration's stance while the House was voting on unrelated legislation Wednesday evening.
"The president's putting the interests of the Iranian leadership, the Iranian terrorists ahead of the interests of hard-working American families by allowing Iran to export oil but not the United States," he said, reacting to the news.
"Let's see how we do first," Flores said of the Friday vote, declining to predict whether a veto override is realistic.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, similarly pointed to geopolitical politics as an argument to support a repeal. But in tone, he was more morose than Flores.
"It's unfortunate" because there is bipartisan support for the bill, McCaul said. "In my conversations with [Obama administration] officials privately, they didn't voice a lot of strong objection to it."
McCaul also downplayed the chances of a veto override.
"Possibly, but I think that would be hard in the Senate, particularly."
Jim Malewitz contributed to this report.