obama boehner

Republicans in Congress, led by House Speaker John Boehner, voted to lift a 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports on Friday, setting up a likely veto from the office of President Barack Obama. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Defying a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Friday approved a bill to lift a 40-year-old U.S. ban on crude oil exports.

The House approved the bill on a 261-159 vote. Supporters said an ongoing boom in oil and gas drilling has made the 1970s-era restrictions obsolete. Lifting the export ban would lower prices at the pump, create jobs and boost the economy, said Republican House Speaker John Boehner from Ohio.

"In my view, America's energy boom has the potential to reset the economic foundation of our economy and improve our standing around the world," Boehner said.

'Times have changed'

Republican Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said times have changed and that U.S. policy should embrace a new reality of energy abundance.

While the Obama administration "claims to support an all-of-the-above energy policy, their actions don't match the rhetoric," Upton said.

The White House called the bill unnecessary and argued that a decision on whether to end the ban should be made by the Commerce secretary.

Opponents said the bill would mainly benefit big oil companies.

"This bill is an unconscionable giveaway to Big Oil at the expense of American consumers," Florida Democrat Kathy Castor said.

Selling U.S. oil to foreign markets will result in higher gas prices at the pump and ultimately benefit China and other economic rivals, Castor said.

Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky said the bill is not needed as long as U.S. continues to import millions of barrels of oil every day.

"Every barrel exported by this bill will have to be replaced by a barrel of imported oil," she said.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.