Russian coal, gas and oil and other petroleum products would be illegal to import in the U.S. under a bill the House passed Wednesday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lawmakers voted 414-17 to pass the bill, which Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Tex., sponsored. It was not immediately clear when the Senate might act on the legislation. The legislation includes language allowing the president to issue a waiver for goods the bill would cover if such a "waiver is in the national interest."
Passage came a day after the White House also levied sanctions against Russian-made energy imports entering the U.S., a maneuver President Joe Biden said would require the American public to shoulder financial inconvenience due to higher gasoline prices.
“The Russian regime relies on energy sales to fund many of its offenses,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass.
“This bill will cut off some of that revenue,” he said. “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.”
A plethora of bills to halt the import of Russian energy commodities emerged in the aftermath of Russia’s attack, with fossil industry groups and congressional Republicans seizing on the war as grounds to pump more oil and gas domestically. Democrats and environmentalists are pressing the administration to tack hard toward renewables in response,
Three percent of U.S. imports of crude oil came from Russia in 2021, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group for the refining industry. That sum trailed imports from Canada (61 percent of oil imports), Mexico (10 percent) and Saudi Arabia (6 percent).
Unlike the bill, the administration’s sanctions bar Americans from investing in Russian energy companies.
The House legislation, which would go into effect 45 days after becoming law, directs the U.S. Trade Representative to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the World Trade Organization and encourages other member-nations of the trade forum to cut off trade with Russia.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., took issue with that timeline. “Ukraine doesn’t have 45 days,” he said.
Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said they were disappointed the bill did not further isolate Russia from international trade partners, including by stripping its “most-favored-nation” status at the World Trade Organization, a condition in international trade allows most products to enter the U.S. at generally lower tariff rates.
Blumenauer, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he thought bipartisan agreement to remove that status of Russia was achievable. “I am convinced that we will be able to get there,” he said.
Neal, chairman of Ways and Means, said he was “committed” to “punishing” Russia at the WTO over its invasion.
“Membership in the WTO is a privilege that comes with responsibilities,” Neal said.
In the lead-up to passage, acrimonious recriminations emerged over which leader, former President Donald Trump or President Joe Biden, had been tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After Russian military forces entered Ukraine two weeks ago, Trump called Putin “savvy” and “genius.” Those comments drew a response from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who distanced himself from Trump’s remarks. "I do not think anything savvy or genius about Putin," McCarthy told reporters Wednesday. "I think Putin is evil. I think he's a dictator.”
During his presidency, Trump, who showed warmth toward strong-men leaders in North Korea, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, said he believed Putin when the Russian leader said Russia had not interfered in America's 2016 presidential election.
“As Biden has tried to unite, Trump and his cronies cannot stop licking Putin’s boots even as Putin was using those boots to kick Ukrainians in the teeth,” Doggett said. “Let’s unite and stand with Ukrainian patriots.”
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex., the top GOP member of Ways and Means, replied, “All of that was nonsense.”