WASHINGTON – The House overwhelmingly passed legislation that would block Russian oil imports, following President Biden’s ban on Russian energy imports using his executive authority.
The bill passed 414-17 as the House attempted to put its mark on a popular policy proposal in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday showed 79% of Americans said they favored a ban on Russian oil imports even if the prohibition increased energy prices in the U.S. Just 13% said they opposed it.
A senior Democratic leadership aide said the vote was held to get lawmakers on the record. Fifteen Republicans and two Democrats voted against the measure.
In addition to banning oil imports, the legislation would also require the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage other World Trade Organization members to suspend trade concessions to Russia and take other steps to suspend Russia from the WTO. The legislation that passed is less strict than an earlier version of the bill, which would have forced Mr. Biden to personally seek the suspension of Russia from the world trade body. It would also renew the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the U.S. to impose further sanctions on Russia on humanitarian grounds.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that Democrats had wanted to go even further than the current bill.
“We have strong bipartisan support for the legislation, we want to even do more” she said, citing the earlier version’s stronger trade provision.
It isn’t clear if it will get a vote in the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) hasn’t committed to a vote and where Senate Democrats want a more expansive bill. In particular, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) has wanted to include a measure ending normal trade relations with Russia. House Democrats left the provision out of their bill after opposition from the White House, which has warned about the risk of damaging the international coalition assembled to stand up to Russia.
“What we’ll do is continue to talk with the administration,” Mr. Wyden told reporters on Tuesday. “Russia’s actions do not warrant them continuing to reap the fruits of the international trade system.”
On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order prohibiting new Russian shipments of oil, certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal. Still, Mrs. Pelosi decided to move forward with legislation in the House.
Ahead of the vote Wednesday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told reporters he planned to vote for the legislation, but said “I wish we did something more, you cannot just shut off Russian gas and not produce in America.”
Republicans have called on the Biden administration to increase U.S. output as a follow-up to the import ban.