A Senate panel has approved energy legislation that would lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports and open some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.
Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairman of the panel, championed the plan to lift the restrictions. It passed by a party-line vote of 12-10.
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Murkowski said lifting the ban would turn the U.S. into an energy superpower.
Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington, who opposes lifting the ban, describes the votes as an important first step in a long journey.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an array of energy legislation on Thursday. Lawmakers wanted to move the energy legislation out of committee before the August recess.