House GOP probing covert US-Saudi deal to boost oil output
House Republicans are considering probing a deal reportedly made by the Biden Administration and Saudi Arabia regarding an oil output hike from OPEC+.
Republicans in the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee are probing an alleged "secret" US-Saudi deal to boost oil production ahead of the midterms that were held last month, a letter sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. It further disclosed that the deal never saw daylight.
"The Committee is investigating reports of a 'secret deal to boost oil production' between the Biden Administration and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
"If the Administration is brokering secret agreements to the detriment of American energy producers and for campaign purposes, the American people deserve to know," the text further read.
The lawmakers are requesting all documents and communications between Biden administration officials and any representatives of OPEC+ member states, including Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, the authors cited a New York Times report published in October claiming the White House believed it had reached an agreement with the Kingdom to increase oil production and felt betrayed after the organization's decision taken later on when OPEC+ decided to decrease its oil production drastically despite US President Joe Biden visiting Saudi Arabia in July.
According to the NYT, officials in the Biden administration started making plans in the spring for the President to visit "Israel" in the summer and stop in Saudi Arabia for a conference. They were aware that such a visit would draw criticism because, up until that point in his presidency, Biden had refused to meet one-on-one with the Crown Prince and had criticized Bin Salman during the presidential campaign. He also ordered the declassification of an intelligence report that suggested the Prince had probably ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
However, a few of the President's advisors regarded the trip's advantages as having both immediate and long-term value and had secretly worked to mend the relationship. More immediately, they thought the trip could support a Saudi promise to persuade OPEC to raise oil output in light of the fact that the Western sanctions on Russia caused a sharp increase in world fuel costs.
The US is concerned that OPEC's decision would pose serious problems for the country and may even be interpreted as a hostile act, according to a US Treasury report.
The lawmakers believe that the American people have the right to know about any "backdoor deals" inked by President Biden or his administration officials.
Moreover, the group of Republican lawmakers also believe that the Biden administration had plans to strike a deal with the kingdom aiming to provide Democrats with a more favorable position ahead of the midterm elections, which ended with the GOP winning a House majority.
Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee James Comer, projected to become the committee's chairman when the new Congress is inaugurated on January 3, asked the administration's Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Affairs at the State Department Amos Hochstein to contact the committee and arrange testimonies on the matter.
OPEC+ decided Sunday to maintain its current quotas for oil production after considering a further cut.
Saudi Arabia said in late November that OPEC+ was sticking with oil output cuts and could go for more measures to balance the market as prices are falling, denying a report saying it was considering increasing its output, according to state news agency SPA.
"It is well-known that OPEC+ does not discuss any decisions ahead of the meeting," Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was quoted by state news agency SPA as saying, referring to the group's coming meeting in December.
Additionally, the Prince also underlined that "The current cut of 2 million barrels per day by OPEC+ continues until the end of 2023 and if there is need to take further measures by reducing production to balance supply and demand we always remain ready to intervene."
The Wall Street Journal said talk of a production increase has appeared after US President Joe Biden's administration told a federal court judge that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should have sovereign immunity from a US federal lawsuit related to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing.
The immunity decision amounted to a concession to Prince Mohammed, boosting his standing as the kingdom's de facto ruler after the Biden administration tried to isolate him for months, the newspaper said.