Congressional negotiators edged closer to a historic deal to lift a 40-year-old ban on most U.S. crude oil exports as part of a massive government spending bill, but the talks were far from conclusion, congressional aides said late on Friday.
A Senate aide, who did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the talks, said an end to the ban was "very likely," in the so-called "omnibus" spending bill. The aide added that this could be traded for extensions of wind and solar tax credits and more environmental funding.
Other congressional aides said such an agreement was possible, but there was no deal yet. Negotiators are haggling over several controversial policy provisions that could be attached to the $1.15 trillion spending measure. These include the removal of the ban on crude exports, a Democratic proposal to end a ban on medical research into gun violence, and Republican demands to tighten screening of Syrians seeking refuge in the United States.
"We do not have a final agreement on the omnibus or tax extenders," said Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Republicans have been pushing to end the crude export ban to help sustain a major boom in U.S. oil production and offer U.S. allies an alternative to Russian and OPEC oil.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, a major new oil producing state, as saying: "We're guardedly optimistic that this will be in fact part of the deal that gets done."