WASHINGTON - Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, voted against a $1.1 trillion spending bill that cleared the House and Senate on Friday, warning that a key provision could hurt the oil refineries that employ thousands in the Philadelphia area.
Meehan and Sen. Pat Toomey (R. Pa.) were the only lawmakers from the region who voted against the bipartisan package, a sweeping compromise that will keep the federal government running for the next fiscal year but also includes enough policy riders in its 2,009 pages to please and anger seemingly everyone.
It was quickly signed into law Friday afternoon.
Meehan said there was much to like in the bill, but he balked because it ends a 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil. That change was one of the package's most controversial elements.
Ending the ban could expand the market for crude oil and boost crude prices. For local refineries, that means higher costs for the oil they turn into gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. The refineries warn that will make them less competitive.
"I will not gamble with refinery jobs and the families and communities they support," Meehan said in a news release.Refineries in Philadelphia, Trainer, Paulsboro, and Delaware City, Del., account for around 4,000 jobs, according to Meehan's office and public documents.
Republican leaders argued that allowing exports will boost the U.S. oil industry, spurring growth throughout the economy.
Toomey also listed a number of provisions he has long supported - including suspending a tax on medical device makers - but said that "on balance" the measure included too much waste.
The "bloated" bill, he said in a news release, "is filled with special-interest giveaways, and will continue Washington's addiction to overspending and fiscal irresponsibility."
Republicans and Democrats who backed the plan praised it as a deal to avert the threat of a shutdown, even if they did not like all the pieces.
The plan passed on votes of 316-113 in the House and 65-33 in the Senate.
Democrats took aim at Meehan and Toomey, saying they had voted against aid for 9/11 first responders, one of the provisions in the bill. Republicans said they supported that piece while opposing the bill overall.