House suspends trade relations with Russia, Belarus

Associated Press/Rodrigo Abd
A dog drinks water next to destroyed Russian armored vehicles in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 3, 2022.

The House approved legislation Thursday that would codify the Biden administration’s ban on Russian oil imports and suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.

Passage of both bills came just hours after the Senate cleared each of them unanimously, 100-0.

While the House passed both measures with widespread bipartisan support, there were still a handful of defections among the far right and far left.

The first bill to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, as well as reauthorize sanctions for human rights violations and corruption, passed by a vote of 420-3. Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) were the only lawmakers to vote against the measure.

The second bill to codify the ban on imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, meanwhile, passed by a vote of 413-9. Two Democrats, Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Cori Bush (Mo.), voted against the bill, along with Republican Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Gaetz, Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Greene, Massie and Chip Roy (Texas).

Both measures now head to President Biden for his signature.

The House previously passed both bills in recent weeks, but weeks of negotiations in the Senate stalled quick action to send them to Biden’s desk as the U.S. and Western allies ramp up sanctions to retaliate against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that began in late February.

Pressure grew on lawmakers to clinch a deal after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Putin of engaging in war crimes. Ukrainian officials reported finding hundreds of people buried in mass graves and bodies of executed civilians lying in the streets of Bucha, a city outside the nation’s capital of Kyiv.

“Today, the Congress has completed strong, bipartisan and bicameral action to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked, premeditated war against Ukraine,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Putin’s aggression and barbaric war crimes have horrified the world and demand a strong response.”

The most significant holdup was negotiations with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) about reauthorizing the human rights sanctions under the Magnitsky Act. The original House bill changed the law’s language from targeting “gross” human rights violations to “serious” ones. But the latest version keeps the original Magnitsky Act language.

The House also passed a bill on Wednesday that would require the Biden administration to outline its efforts to collect evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.

Biden said earlier this week that Putin should face trial for war crimes.

“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone has seen it,” Biden said.

The Biden administration unveiled its latest round of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, this time targeting Russia’s two largest banks, Putin’s daughters and other key Russian officials.

Jordain Carney contributed.

Tags Belarus gas prices Joe Biden Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky

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