What to Know in Washington: Biden Weighs Saudi Oil Cuts Response

  • Biden rethinking US relationship with Saudis
  • OPEC+ oil cuts spurred lawmaker proposals

President Joe Biden voiced his fury with Saudi Arabia over OPEC+ oil production cuts Tuesday, accusing the kingdom of allying itself with Russia and vowing to engage with US lawmakers clamoring to punish Riyadh.

The president added that he believes it’s time for the US to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia. But he and senior administration officials also conceded that a legislative plan to retaliate was unlikely to materialize until after November’s midterm elections, underscoring the complex calculations the US faces as it weighs a longtime partnership that has quickly soured.

The president would only say he was “in the process” of evaluating consequences for the kingdom, and indicated they were not likely before lawmakers returned from a recess scheduled to last into November.

“I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind, but there will be consequences,” he said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the administration would evaluate proposals from Congress and speak to allies about the US partnership with Saudi Arabia over the coming weeks and months. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, for his part, said the White House would “start to have conversations” when lawmakers returned, while downplaying internal efforts within the administration.

President Joe Biden on Oct. 10.

Saudi Arabia’s move has prompted a flood of proposals from administration allies on Capitol Hill. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) of Connecticut and Representative Ro Khanna (D) of California proposed legislation Tuesday to halt US arms sales to Saudi Arabia for one year.

Their proposal joins others made by members of Congress since the production cutbacks were announced and since Russia’s barrage of missile attacks on civilian infrastructure across Ukraine.

The White House on Tuesday signaled it was unlikely to support legislation withdrawing support for the integrated air and missile defense network provided to Arab partners and intended as a bulwark against Iran.

Other administration officials have repeatedly declined the chance to endorse specific proposals from Capitol Hill, including bipartisan legislation known as the “NOPEC” bill that would allow US lawsuits against countries in the cartel for manipulating energy markets. Read more from Justin Sink and Steven T. Dennis.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Small at asmall@bgov.com