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Senators Pass Veto-Proof Proposal to Halt Oil Shipments to Strategic Petroleum Reserve

By a veto-proof margin on Tuesday, the Senate nearly unanimously adopted, 97 to 1, a proposal to halt oil shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until the end of the year or until oil dips below $75 a barrel. The proposal, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), may soon head to the president’s desk. The House overwhelmingly passed a similar measure, 385 to 25, Tuesday night, far surpassing the two-thirds margin needed to override a presidential veto. “I don’t think the White House is happy about this at all,” said one senior GOP leadership aide about the prospect of a presidential veto being overridden thanks to Congressional Republican support. The move is the first bipartisan action from the Hill aimed at curbing consumer anger over soaring gas prices. Although President Bush has threatened to veto the measure, Republican support would trump him. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) was the only Senator to vote no. A proposal introduced earlier by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling failed, 42 to 56, as expected. But passage of the measure doesn’t signal smooth sailing for the larger Democratic energy package introduced last week, which Senate Democrats hope to bring to the floor before the Memorial Day recess. That package includes rolling back $17 billion in tax breaks for big oil companies, a windfall tax on record profits and language making foreign oil cartels eligible for action in U.S. courts. Key Democrats such as Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (N.D.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) have reservations about the tax components of the package. On the floor Tuesday morning, Republicans noted that Democrats talked about other parts of their energy package, notably market speculation, but have yet to introduce anything beyond the reserve suspension. GOPers questioned when Democrats might present their entire package. The proposals were introduced as amendments to the flood insurance reauthorization bill considered by the Senate on Tuesday.

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