The move, which passed the Senate and House Tuesday with a bipartisan majority, may reflect changing GOP ideas on energy.
President Bush has resisted calls to halt purchase of some 70,000 barrels of oil a day for the SPR or to sell off "strategic petroleum" to help ease $4-a-gallon gas prices. Democrats claim the move could drop prices by 25 cents a gallon.
White House spokesmen dispute that claim, but say the president will not veto the bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 97 to 1; in the House, 285 to 25. "The president doesn't support the legislation because he doesn't believe it will have a meaningful impact on prices, but he will not veto the underlying legislation that passed in the Senate or the House," says White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel.
"The president hopes this bill won't distract Congress from doing what they should do in the future such as opening up new domestic supply in an environmentally sensitive way," he added.
But Republicans on Capitol Hill are already moving into a post-Bush mind-set on energy. In part, it's a response to sticker shock at the pump from constituents. GOP lawmakers say they are also responding to new themes raised by their likely standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential race.