Bipartisan pair of senators proposes new Russia sanctions

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) listens to Braxton Wright testify during the Senate Budget Committee hearing, “Warrior Met and Wall Street Greed: What Corporate Raiders are Doing to Workers and Consumers” on Thursday, February 17, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Tuesday proposed tightening restrictions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by setting a price cap on Russian oil and sanctioning countries that exceed a certain threshold of business with Russian energy companies.

The senators introduced a framework outlining their bipartisan support for a price cap on Russian seaborne oil and petroleum products by March 2023, with the price cap lowering by one-third each year until it breaks even by the third year, according to a press release from Toomey and Van Hollen.

Additionally, the framework would require the U.S. Energy Information Agency to provide a list of all the nations that do business with Russian energy, including coal, natural gas and oil.

Nations that “significantly” exceed a pre-war benchmark of Russian energy purchases must be subject to sanctions, according to the press release. The sanctions legislation would sunset after seven years or if the president terminates it following a diplomatic agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

In a statement, Van Hollen and Toomey said existing sanctions on Russia have hit the “economy and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s cronies.”

“However, we have yet to effectively cut off funding to Putin’s war machine by diminishing Russia’s revenues from energy sales,” the statement reads. “The Ukrainian people have inspired the world in their fight for freedom and independence, and the sanctions framework we’re releasing today is a critical component in helping them defeat Russian aggression.”

Both Van Hollen and Toomey are members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and have previously worked together on legislation sanctioning North Korea and those involved in the brutal crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.

The news follows the announcement of a forthcoming price cap from the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, which includes the U.S. That would prohibit the shipping of Russian oil if it’s sold at a higher price than the cap and would cut into Russian profits.

The bipartisan framework legislation introduced Tuesday works in tandem with the G-7 price cap, the senators said.

By “imposing strong secondary sanctions, our framework also provides the administration with the tools needed to hold accountable the financial institutions supporting those countries involved in rampant war profiteering from Russian exports,” they said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury department told The Hill on Tuesday they look forward to reviewing the bill. The spokesperson added the “Treasury has sufficient authorities to implement a price cap and is well-equipped to advance the policy.”

“Our goal remains to work hand-in-hand with our international partners to both keep Russian oil flowing onto global markets at lower prices and to reduce the Kremlin’s revenue for its illegal war in Ukraine,” the spokesperson said. “There is evidence this approach is already working, with public reports that Russia is scrambling to offer cut-rate discounts on oil to major importers like India and Indonesia in an attempt to get ahead of the price cap.

Updated: 3:56 p.m.

Tags chris van hollen Chris Van Hollen Energy Information Agency G-7 Maryland Pat Toomey Pat Toomey Pennsylvania Russia Russian sanctions Senate Ukraine

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