House, Senate trade leaders propose Russian energy ban
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the two congressional committees covering trade policy reached a deal Monday on a bill to ban energy imports and suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.
The chairmen and ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee said in a Monday statement they would soon introduce a bill to ban imports of Russian energy products. The bill would also give President Biden authority to boost tariffs and impose other trade barriers for goods from Russia and Belarus, require the White House to advocate for Russia’s removal from the World Trade Organization and oppose Belarus joining the organization.
“Taking these actions will send a clear message to Putin that his war is unacceptable and the United States stands firmly with our NATO allies,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Finance ranking member Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) in a statement.
“While Congress needs to do more, as the congressional leaders with jurisdiction over our nation’s trade policy, we are committed to using the tools at our disposal to stop Russia’s unconscionable and unjust war on Ukraine and to hold Belarus accountable for its involvement.”
Biden is under growing pressure from lawmakers and leaders in both parties to ban Russian energy imports and target a major source of wealth for the Kremlin. While Russia’s economy has already begun to crumble under sanctions imposed by the U.S. and allies, its oil and gas sector has been largely exempted from the penalties.
American and European leaders have tried to avoid any sanctions that would cause oil and natural gas prices to spike after a year of steep increases. European Union nations depend heavily on Russian oil and natural gas imports, and rising demand for U.S. energy products would boost prices within the states as well.
But the White House has opened the door to a ban on Russian energy imports amid growing bipartisan pressure and an unrelenting assault on Ukraine from the Russian army.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters “no decision has been made” on whether to ban Russian oil imports. Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier Wednesday in a video call, the White House said, where the leaders “affirmed their determination to continue raising the costs on Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”