GOP senator prevents quick passage of House bill limiting Russian trade

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Greg Nash

A House-passed bill to end normal trade relations with Russia is getting snagged in the Senate by a fight over whether to include a ban on importing Russian oil in the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to quickly pass the House legislation, which cleared that chamber last week in a 424-8 vote, arguing that it would be a symbolic show of unity while President Biden is traveling to meet with European allies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“PNTR has been approved overwhelmingly by the House and it’s the most logical next step in the fight against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s barbaric war, and the Senate should thus act. Republicans who complain of delay are the ones who are delaying,” Schumer said, referring to ending permanent normal trade relations.

Under the Senate’s rules, any one senator can try to quickly schedule a vote or pass a bill. But it requires a deal with all 100 senators, meaning it only takes one senator to block the request.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, blocked Schumer’s request, which he was widely expected to do. Crapo had previously warned that he would block quick passage of the House bill if it didn’t include the oil ban.

“None of this is controversial and all of it is necessary,” Crapo said. “Let us mark the bravery of the Ukrainian people by passing the strongest legislation.”

The back-and-forth on the floor illustrates the headaches the House-passed trade bill is facing in the Senate that are threatening to slow it down.

The House bill raises tariffs on goods from Russia and Belarus and sets up strict guidelines for when the president can restore normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus based on the state of the war. The Biden administration will additionally be obligated to push for Russia’s removal from the World Trade Organization.

The bill also reauthorizes and expands the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which sparked some grumbling on the House side of the Capitol.

The bill comes after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Crapo and Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said earlier this month that they had reached an agreement on a path forward for legislation that would ban the import of Russian oil, end normal trade relations with Russia and apply new sanctions.

In the end, the House separated the two issues, passing one bill that bans the import of oil and the separate bill ending PNTR for Russia and Belarus. The Senate hasn’t taken up the oil ban legislation and Biden has moved on his own to enact the import ban.

“Our House colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree both restrictions need to happen,” Crapo said, adding that the two issues are “complimentary.”

Any Senate changes to the House bill would slow down its path to Biden’s desk because it would need to be passed again by the lower chamber, which is out of town this week.

“Any changes to the PNTR legislation delays enactment by at least a week. There is absolutely no reason to change what the House has already approved,” Schumer said, adding that “showing unity particularly at this time when the president is meeting with our European allies, is especially important.”

Senators indicated that negotiations would continue throughout Wednesday.

Crapo tried to offered a substitute amendment, which Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) objected to because it did not include the Magnitsky sanctions.

But Crapo said that he was willing to work with Cardin or others to get an agreement by the end of the day. Schumer added that he was working with staff from Wyden and Crapo’s offices to try to work out language on Wednesday to address the oil ban separately.

Tags Ben Cardin Chuck Schumer Joe Biden Kevin Brady Mike Crapo Richard Neal Ron Wyden Russia Russian oil Ukraine

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