WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican U.S. senator introduced legislation on Thursday to remove American troops from Saudi Arabia, adding pressure on the kingdom to tighten its oil taps to reverse the crude price drop that has hurt domestic energy companies.
The legislation from Senator Bill Cassidy, of oil-producing Louisiana, would remove U.S. troops 30 days after enactment, a full month faster than similar legislation introduced by two other Republican senators in March.
Cassidy introduced the bill as OPEC+, a production group including Saudi Arabia and others in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, closed in on a deal to slash oil output by a record amount of about 15 million barrels, or 15% of global production.
The spread of the coronavirus has crushed crude demand at the same time that Saudi Arabia and Russia have pumped oil flat- out in a race for market share, pushing prices to 18-year lows.
The extra oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has made it impossible for energy companies in the United States, the world’s top oil and gas producer, to compete, Cassidy said.
“Withdrawing troops placed to protect others recognizes that friendship and support is a two-way street,” he said.
Cassidy’s bill faces an uphill battle and would have to pass the Senate, the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law. Still, it was a sign of how Congress could take action against Saudi Arabia if it does not stick to the plan to cut oil output.
The bill would also place tariffs on imports of oil from Saudi Arabia within 10 days of enactment. The tariff would ensure that the price of oil imports from Saudi Arabia would not be less than $40 a barrel, the bill said.
Trump has threatened tariffs on oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Russia but has not imposed them amid opposition from powerful energy interests, including the American Petroleum Institute lobbying group.
The bill would not remove U.S. Patriot missiles or THAAD defense systems, as the previous legislation would.
Congress is out until at least April 20 and possibly longer due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Jonathan Oatis