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House Votes to Ban Russian Oil Imports Amid Bipartisan Uproar

These translations are done via Google Translate
(Bloomberg) The House approved legislation barring U.S. imports of Russian oil as lawmakers of both parties demanded stronger punishment of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.The 414-17 vote came after President Joe Biden on Tuesday implemented a ban on imports of Russian crude oil and other fossil fuel products, a move made in part because of pressure from lawmakers. The House legislation also takes steps to review Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization and reauthorizes and strengthens the Magnitsky Act, which calls for sanctions on human rights offenders.

The ban would go into effect 45 days after it is signed into law. It also has a provision letting the president allow the importation of some products if it’s “in the national interest,” subject to review by Congress.

“The Russian regime relies on energy sales to fund many of its offenses,” said Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat. “This bill will cut off some of the revenue with a ban on the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States. The more economic pain we inflict” on Russian President Vladimir Putin, “the more pressure he will feel to finally feel to end this brutal campaign of terror on the Ukrainian people.”

The legislation doesn’t include a provision revoking permanent normal trade relations status for Russia, which key lawmakers in both parties supported. That provision, which would have allowed tariff increases on the full range of Russian exports and spelled out conditions for restoring Russia’s status, was removed after a request from the White House, a person familiar with the discussion said.

It wasn’t clear, however, whether the legislation would be considered in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Biden’s action to ban Russian energy imports but so far has made no commitment to having his chamber take up separate legislation.

“We’ll first have to see what the House passes and then we’ll discuss things with the administration and find the best way to make sure that the oil export ban is tight and tough,” Schumer said on Tuesday.

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Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to enact a ban on Russian fossil fuels, told reporters he didn’t see the need for the legislation after Biden acted. Other Democrats said they wanted to leave the administration with some flexibility to act.

But late Wednesday, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who leads the Senate committee overseeing trade, introduced legislation that would ban the import of Russian oil and other fossil fuel. The legislation, co-authored by Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, reflects a bipartisan agreement reached in both chambers earlier in the week.

The White House had been reluctant to cut Russian oil imports, citing the effect on energy prices. But once it became clear that Congress was set to move, administration officials asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday to hold off on separate legislation to let the president take the initiative.

Even amid complaints about gasoline prices, the American public was shifting to support inflicting stronger punishment on Putin’s government. In a Quinnipiac University national poll released Monday, 71% of Americans said they supported prohibiting Russian oil even if that meant higher prices at the gas station.

The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline hit $4.173 on Monday, according to auto club AAA, a record without adjustment for inflation.

When crude oil and all other petroleum products are included, such as unfinished fuel oil that can be used to produce gasoline and diesel, Russia accounted for about 8% of 2021 U.S. oil imports, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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