This vote was on an amendment that would have prevented natural gas harvested off the U.S. coast from being sold to foreign countries.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) offered the amendment to Republican legislation that would open vast new stretches of federally owned territory to energy exploration. Republicans argued that the bill would allow more energy production in the United States and reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy sources.
Rep. Markey argued that if the bill’s goal is energy security, it should prohibit energy companies from selling the natural gas they harvest in American waters to buyers in other countries. Energy companies would seek a higher price in international markets, but to promote national energy security, the natural gas should be sold and used in the United States, he said.
“When do American consumers get a break? When do American manufacturers get a break? When do the plastics, the chemical, the steel industries get a break in low energy prices? Is it all a one-way street for ExxonMobil and these big multinationals?” Rep. Markey said. “This amendment, the Markey amendment, is aimed straight at the Strait of Hormuz, and it's saying to them, ‘We've got the natural gas here in America. We're going to drill for it, but we're keeping it here because it's six times lower in price than it is in Asia and in Europe, and that's (why) we're going to keep it here for our American citizens.’”
Republicans argued that the amendment was actually aimed at preventing new oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Complying with Rep. Markey’s amendment would be prohibitively expensive because the refuge is so far from U.S. markets, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) said. Others argued that by passing the amendment, America would “shoot ourselves in the foot” by hurting international trade.
“We insist that China play by the rules. In fact, they've been hoarding their raw materials and holding them back from export to America, which harms American companies,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said. “We just won an important ruling around the world that says China has to stop that. Yet here we are on the House floor, trying to do the exact same thing to our export of natural gas, and we're going to be called on it just like we called it out on China.”
Rep. Markey’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 168-254. Voting “yea” were 159 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 9 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 227 Republicans and 27 Democrats. As a result, the House moved forward with legislation opening vast new stretches of federally owned land to energy exploration without requiring the natural gas harvested to be sold in the United States.