May 23, 2022

House passes ban on Russian oil imports amid escalating war in Ukraine

As economic pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine continues to intensify, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday banning energy imports from that country, doing so on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, as the Washington Examiner reports.

Passing by a margin of 414-17, the bill follows closely on the heels of an executive action from President Joe Biden also banning imports of Russian coal, natural gas, and oil, a move which came on Tuesday after substantial hesitation on the part of the administration.

Notably, the House ban is more expansive than the one initiated by Biden, in that it instructs the United States Trade Representative to urge fellow World Trade Organization member countries to halt trade concessions provided to Russia, though it also permits the president to suspend the import ban should that be deemed in the national interest, as the Examiner further noted.

“The Russian regime relies on energy sales to fund many of its offenses,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) explained, adding, “[t]his bill will cut off some of that revenue. The more economic pain we inflict on Putin, the more pressure he will feel to finally end this campaign of terror on the Ukrainian people.”

Though the measure was opposed by just 15 Republicans and two Democrats, not everyone was completely satisfied with the final product, with some in the GOP lamenting that it did not incorporate steps to take “most favored nation” trade status away from Russia and decrying what was seen as loopholes related to the ban on energy imports, among other perceived weaknesses.

“I was proud to take a stand today against Russia and sanction their energy exports for Vladimir Putin’s lawless and bloodthirsty invasion of Ukraine,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), according to Fox News. “However, this bill does not go far enough to make up for the devastating impact of Joe Biden’s anti-American energy agenda,” she added.

“Joe Biden must do more than swap out one dictator for another dictator’s oil,” Stefanik continued, referencing reports that the Biden administration was considering making overtures toward unfriendly oil-rich countries such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to get more energy to the market and temper skyrocketing prices.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) voted against the measure, citing the concerns raised by Stefanik by saying, “President Biden’s outrageously calloused original decision on his first day to make America and Europe dependent on Russia, Iran and Venezuela for oil while he chases a green new nightmare has made the world dangerous while funding those who will end our freedom.”

Joining 17 Republicans in opposing the bill were far-left Democrat Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN) and Cori Bush (MO), with Omar stating about the measure, “That’s not only going to have a devastating impact on the people of Russia, but on Europe as well,” and because it remains unclear whether the Senate will even entertain the legislation, the chamber’s gesture may ultimately be a largely symbolic one anyhow.

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