Trump administration officials are divided over legislation that would allow the federal government to sue OPEC nations for attempting to control oil prices.
Driving the news: The bipartisan measure, which has been introduced many times over the last 20 years, finally has a shot at becoming law — a move that experts say would upend global oil markets.
President Trump has long been critical of the oil-producing group and years earlier backed the bill in question, but division is rampant elsewhere across the government, according to several people familiar with the dynamic.
“Like many things in this administration, the bureaucracy is trying to slow roll things as much as possible to keep it away from the political decision makers.”— David Goldwyn, former top energy official in State Department in Obama administration
What they're saying: Goldwyn, now president of his own consulting firm, says the policy has the makings of everything Trump likes, including expanded executive branch power and a chance to show off America’s energy dominance.
“If he gets it, he’ll sign it. If someone asks him, he’ll say yes,” Goldwyn says.
Details: The legislation at issue is called the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act.
- It would give the U.S. attorney general the ability to bring lawsuits against OPEC for perceived anti-competitive conduct with petroleum commodities.
- Previous attempts to sue OPEC have lost in court.
Background: The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill last month, having done the same thing in the last Congress under GOP control.
- Republican lawmakers have asked the Trump administration since last summer for its official position on the bill, and to date they haven’t gotten an answer, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the bill’s backers.
- Congressional committees have approved the legislation several times in the past, but both presidents facing it — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — opposed it.
Trump backed the bill in his 2011 book.
- A top antitrust Justice Department official backed the bill as a private lawyer and testified to Congress in December it could lower gasoline prices.
- On the other side, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said recently the bill could cause long-term spikes in oil prices, and thus higher pump prices.
For the record: A senior administration official told Axios,“The administration does not have a position on NOPEC legislation at this time."
What we’re watching: Oil prices and Trump’s Twitter. If oil prices rise, or if they remain higher than he likes going into re-election, he could likely tweet about the bill, and if he does, experts say it would fly through Congress.
Go deeper: Read more of the whole column.