Senate

This week: Congress ramps up penalties against Russia over invasion

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Associated Press images

Congress is moving to impose new penalties against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which is now in its third week. 

After passing a sweeping bill last week that provided $13.6 billion in Ukraine-related aid, lawmakers are preparing to move quickly to end normal trade relations with Russia. President Biden on Friday formally backed revoking the “most favored nation” trade status for Russia, which requires an act of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the House would take up legislation doing so this week. The House comes back into session on Tuesday.

“When the House returns next week, we will take up legislation to formalize this revocation, and it is our hope that it will receive a strong, bipartisan vote,” Pelosi said. 

“Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked war is an attack on the Ukrainian people and an attack on democracy — and the House remains steadfast in our commitment to partnering with President Biden and our allies to level swift, severe punishment and stand with the Ukrainian people,” she added. 

The House already passed legislation last week that banned imports of Russian oil, sought to limit Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization and reauthorized legislation that enabled sanctions on human rights abusers.

But the bill passed by the House last week stopped short of an original bipartisan agreement that would have suspended normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.

Biden said that Pelosi had “agreed to hold off” on a bill in the House ending normal trade relations with Russia until he could get U.S. allies behind a plan to do so together and signaled there was a bipartisan agreement to introduce legislation.

“Unity among our allies is critically important,” Biden said. 

Both the legislation codifying the oil import ban and a separate bill to end permanent normal trade relations with Russia would need to be passed by the Senate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) spearheaded the deal with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to suspend normal trade relations. 

Mask mandates

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is expected to force a vote this week to try to end mask requirements on public transportation. 

“Apparently government doesn’t want to relinquish its power and plans to extend the mask mandate on planes & public transportation. Not on my watch! I’ll be forcing a vote next week to end this unscientific mandate,” Paul tweeted. 

If Paul’s effort is able to pass the Senate — Republicans were able to score wins related to nixing coronavirus rules earlier this month due Democratic absences — it likely faces a roadblock in the Democratic-controlled House. 

Anti-discrimination bill

House Democrats will try again to pass legislation to prohibit discrimination against people with hair styles associated with a particular race or national origin.

The bill — known as the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act — was blocked in the House last month. It garnered bipartisan support, but Republicans prevented it from getting the two-thirds vote necessary to clear under fast-track procedures. 

Instead, Democrats are bringing the bill back up this week under a process that will let it pass by a simple majority. The bill would still need 60 votes to clear the Senate. 

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), the bill’s author, said during the debate on the House floor that it’s essential to formally ban hair discrimination because African Americans are penalized under workplace and school dress code policies for having natural hairstyles. 

“Far too often, Black people, especially Black women and girls, are derided or deemed unprofessional simply because their hair does not conform to white beauty standards,” Watson Coleman said. 

Nominations

The Senate is moving forward with Shalanda Young’s nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Biden announced his intention to nominate Young to the post in November, after she had been filling the role in an acting capacity for months. 

Young’s nomination came after Biden had to pull his initial pick — Neera Tanden, who previously led the Center for American Progress — amid pushback from some Democratic senators and widespread opposition among Republicans. 

Tags Bonnie Watson Coleman Coronavirus covid-19 restrictions face mask mandate Joe Biden Kevin Brady Mike Crapo Nancy Pelosi Neera Tanden Office of Management and Budget preferred normal trade relations Rand Paul Richard Neal Ron Wyden Russian oil ban Shalanda Young
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