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Saudi Arabia and OPEC risk causing a US recession, Sen. Blumenthal says

<i>Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images</i><br/>United States Senator Richard Blumenthal
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
United States Senator Richard Blumenthal

By Matt Egan, CNN

OPEC and its allies have defended their decision to slash oil production by arguing they are trying to prepare for a potential economic downturn that would hurt energy demand.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal isn’t buying that argument from Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and is leading the push to punish the kingdom.

“Give me a break. You’re causing the recession,” Blumenthal told CNN on Tuesday in a phone interview. “Saudi Arabia has not only thumbed its nose, it has given us a gut punch.”

The OPEC+ supply cut, announced last week, has already driven up oil prices and lifted prices at the gas pump. Higher energy prices will only exacerbate inflationary pressures that have raised the risk of a recession.

Blumenthal and Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna announced legislation on Tuesday to stop all US arms sales to Saudi Arabia for one year. The pause would include military supplies, sales and other weapons aid to Saudi Arabia — a longtime US partner in the Middle East.

“They’ve chosen to align with Russia and increase Russia’s profits at a time when Russia needs more money. It’s egregious,” Blumenthal said, adding that there is “very strong appetite” in Washington to hit back at Saudi Arabia, which is “at best a highly unreliable partner.”

Blumenthal pointed out that the OPEC+ production cut comes just months after President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia, a trip that reversed Biden’s own campaign promise to make the kingdom a pariah over its human rights record.

“This is a down-right betrayal, and, by the way, for the president it’s a double-cross,” Blumenthal said. “I don’t know all the conversations that took place leading to his trip, but certainly think he was misled.”

Asked if Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was a failure, Blumenthal said the trip “didn’t accomplish its goal” but the president was “well-justified” making the effort.

The Saudi embassy did not respond to a request for comment. The US State Department said Tuesday that “decisions” on future US-Saudi relations will be made “in a deliberative, consultative fashion” and reiterated the OPEC+ decision was “misguided.”

The Blumenthal-Khanna legislation would require a one-year halt to all direct commercial sales and foreign military sales of weapons and munitions to Saudi Arabia, including a halt to the sale of spare and repair parts, support services and support programs.

The Senate bill to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia was introduced on Tuesday, while the House version is expected to be introduced soon.

Blumenthal said he hopes the legislation will lead to a “rebalancing” of the “one-sided” relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia gets arms, it gets paid for oil and then basically turns around and betrays us,” he said.

More immediately, Blumenthal said the goal is to get OPEC+ to reverse its decision to slash oil production beginning next month.

“It’s not too late,” he said.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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