Democrats took turns taking swipes at President Biden for seeking new oil imports in countries led by dictators now that the U.S. put the kibosh on Russian oil imports.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the U.S. should not be trading in one tyrant for another to meet America’s energy needs.
“We need to blow a hole in the Russian economy. We need to lower gas prices for American consumers. Everything should be on the table,” he said in an interview. “But I don’t support strengthening one dictator to hurt another. And I don’t think you’ll see us do that.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez fumed about the Biden administration flirting with energy imports from Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
“Nicolás Maduro is a cancer to our hemisphere and we should not breathe new life into his reign of torture and murder,” Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement. “As such, I would strongly oppose any action that fills the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and even food.”
This is not the first time Mr. Menendez parted ways with Mr. Biden when it came to Venezuela. In early February, he criticized the president over the deportation of Venezuelan immigrants seeking asylum, saying it was “extremely disturbing” and “unconscionable.”
Biden administration officials traveled to Venezuela last weekend to talk to country officials about the possibility of lifting sanctions and purchasing its oil to replenish fuel that will be lost in a U.S. ban on Russian oil imports.
It is unclear if the outreach to authoritarian regimes will result in deals to import energy, but the administration has made the initial calculation that it might be an acceptable tradeoff to deliver a blow to the Kremlin and minimize the damage to American consumers.
Mr. Biden also is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia to urge the Saudis to increase their production of oil. Additionally, Mr. Biden is reportedly looking to Iran as another source of oil if he can restore a nuclear deal with the authoritarian Islamic regime.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat and the first Somali-American elected to Congress, criticized the administration on Twitter for seeking to lean on Saudi Arabia for oil.
“Our response to Putin’s immoral war shouldn’t be to strengthen our relationship with the Saudis who are currently causing the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in Yemen,” Ms. Omar said. “Yemenis might not matter to some geopolitically but their humanity should. This is [a] wildly immoral act.”
Mr. Biden planned to sign an executive order Tuesday to ban the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. The decision was made in close consultation with U.S. allies around the world and members of Congress of both parties.
House Republicans also condemned Mr. Biden for seeking energy imports from countries that are hostile toward the U.S.
“Just a few weeks ago, he was begging Putin to produce more oil. … The challenge is that President Biden still won’t say yes to American energy, because to replace that Russian oil is the real critical step,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
“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.”
Rep. August Pfluger, Texas Republican, said President Biden has assaulted the oil and gas industry “creating an environment of weakness that the United States is clearly in instead of being energy dominant.”
“We are now forcing ourselves and our partners and allies to be energy dependent on other countries. We should not rely on our enemies or adversaries for our energy needs,” he said.