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SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL: Why six Texas Democrats broke ranks to vote for crude oil export bill

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas, October 12, 2015 | comments

Oct 12, 2015, 2:34pm CDT Updated Oct 12, 2015, 3:19pm CDT

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Sergio ChapaReporterSan Antonio Business Journal

The 261-159 vote for a bill that would lift the federal ban on exporting crude oil went along party lines but six Texas congressional Democrats broke ranks to vote infavor of the controversial legislation.

Authored by Congressman Joe Barton, R-Ennis, House Resolution 702 passed early Friday afternoon despite a threat of a veto from President Barack Obama.

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The controversial bill would lift the Arab oil embargo era ban on crude oil exports but faces stiff opposition from the United Steelworkers union and refining companies such as San Antonio's Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO).

Opponents argue that lifting the ban would raise gasoline prices, move refinery jobs overseas and hurt the environment. Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill while Democrats voted against it.

Texas has 36 congressional delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives, of which 25 are Republicans and 11 are Democrats.

The final vote roll call released this weekend shows that six Democrats from the Texas delegation broke party ranks to vote for the bill:

·        Henry Cuellar (Laredo)

·        Beto O'Rouke (El Paso)

·        Ruben Hinojosa (Edinburg)

·        Filemon Vela (Brownsville)

·        Sheila Jackson Lee (Houston)

·        Marc Veasey (Fort Worth)

Cuellar, whose district includes much of the Eagle Ford Shale and spans from San Antonio to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley, had signed on as an early supporter of bill.

Favoring jobs and economic development, Cuellar successfully added an amendment to the bill which calls for oil field skills training and beefing up related degree programs at minority-serving academic institutions.

The districts of Cuellar, O'Rouke, Hinojosa and Vela all contain universities and colleges where the the majority of students are Hispanic.

Jackson Lee agreed to vote in favor the bill after successfully adding amendments that would require reporting on opportunities for veterans and women as well as a report that would track the effects of exports on the nation's strategic petroleum reserves.

San Antonio's Congressmen Lamar Smith and Will Hurd voted in favor of the bill but San Antonio's other Congressmen Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett voted against it.

Although Castro supports unrestricted crude oil exports to Mexico and expediting liquefied natural gas exports, the San Antonio congressman said House Republicans took a "my way or the highway" approach on HR 702 by rejecting tax credits for renewable energy producers, reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and contributions to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

"I look forward to seeing how the Senate handles the issue, and am hopeful they pass a more balanced, complete bill," Castro said in a statement.

 

Sergio Chapa covers the energy industry for the newspaper.

 

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