WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said on Thursday he will try to add his bill pressuring OPEC+ to an annual defense policy bill after the group this week announced an oil production cut.
Grassley's legislation, called NOPEC, easily passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May with support from Democrats including Senator Amy Klobuchar, a former presidential candidate, who cosponsored the bill.
NOPEC has gained interest after OPEC+ decided on Wednesday to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day despite tight global supplies worsened by Russia's war in Ukraine.
If passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, NOPEC would change U.S. antitrust law to revoke the sovereign immunity that has protected OPEC+ members and their national oil companies from lawsuits. It would give the U.S. attorney general the option to sue the oil cartel or its members, such as Saudi Arabia or Russia, in federal court.
"OPEC and its partners have ignored President Biden's pleas for increased output, and now they are colluding to reduce production and further raise global oil prices," Grassley said in a statement. "We should at least be able to hold them accountable for their unfair price fixing," he said.
Grassley intends to attach NOPEC as an amendment to the forthcoming National Defense Authorization Act. It was uncertain whether he would be able to gain enough support for the amendment to pass. Congress is unlikely to tackle major legislation until after the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Klobuchar's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The White House said on Wednesday it would consult with Congress on "additional tools and authorities" to reduce OPEC+'s control over energy prices, an apparent reference to possible support for NOPEC. The White House had previously raised concerns about the bill.
Grassley complained in his statement that Biden has pursued policies that have limited or discouraged domestic fossil fuel production "making us more reliant on foreign oil producers."
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)