WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and tighten a ban on Russian oil imports, after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations over details.
Senators in a pair of rare 100-0 votes agreed to send both measures to the U.S. House of Representatives, where lawmakers voted 420-3 to suspend normal trade with Russia, a move that will place the country, which is waging war against Ukraine, in the same ranks as North Korea and Cuba. Three Republicans voted no: Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
The House then voted 413 to 9 to enshrine in law a ban on Russian oil imports. Republicans who voted against the ban were Gaetz, Greene and Massie, along with Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar from Arizona, Dan Bishop from North Carolina and Chip Roy from Texas. They were joined by Democrats Cori Bush of Missouri and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Both bills now go to President Joe Biden for his expected signature.
“Ending normal business relations underscores that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made Russia a pariah state in its own right,” Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said in the Senate Thursday morning.
“Americans watched these atrocities, these brutal acts perpetrated by Vladimir Putin day after day on television and on their phones, etc. And now the Senate says there will be clear, clear, clear evidence that what he did lost the right to normal commercial relations.
Ending Russia’s most favored nation status, or permanent normal trade relationship, allows the US government to raise tariffs on Russian imports. The legislation also calls on the US Trade Representative to suspend Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization.
Wyden, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the panel plans to continue working on bipartisan measures that would “remove subsidies” that Russia receives from American taxpayers.
“It happens when an American company does business in Russia,” Wyden said. “They pay taxes to the Russian government and they get foreign tax credits. I don’t believe the people of Michigan, Oregon, or anywhere else believe that their hard-earned tax dollars should be used to subsidize Putin’s war machine.
human rights debate
The original house past the commerce bill in a 424-8 vote last month, but Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, opposed quick Senate action on how the legislation would change the how the United States defines human rights violations in a human rights law known as the Magnitsky Act.
Paul didn’t want the house to be adopted legislation to change the definition of “gross human rights violations” – which specifically includes acts such as torture, inhuman treatment and prolonged detention without charge – to the phrase “serious human rights violations”.
“What they’re trying to do is take the Magnitsky Act and dig a huge hole in it that you can push anything through and impose penalties on anyone, anywhere in the world, based on a vague, ambiguous and broad definition that is not specific. “, said Paul during a debate on the floor earlier this month.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, offered Paul a floor vote on his amendment to expedite the process late last month, but Paul wanted his amendments added to the law Project.
Schumer declined, noting that “every senator would love to have their amendment easily inserted into a bill. But in the Senate, we vote.
The Senate ultimately did not vote on Paul’s amendment, but changed the wording of the bill to keep the definition exactly as it is now.
Texas GOP Rep. Kevin Brady said during the House debate Thursday that the legislation demonstrates that the US Congress stands with the Ukrainian people amid the Russian war.
“The action we are taking today is long overdue but necessary,” Brady said, adding that the bill was a significant “bipartisan victory.”
Before the energy import ban can be lifted, Brady said, Russia would have to withdraw its military from Ukraine, pose no immediate military threat to any NATO country, and recognize Ukrainians’ right to choose. freely and independently their own government.
Biden, who originally demand Congress in early March to suspend regular trade relations with Russia and took executive action to ban energy imports, is expected to sign the bills.
Revoking normal trade relations with Russia, Biden said at the time, would make it “more difficult for Russia to do business with the United States.”
“And doing it in unison with other nations that make up half of the global economy will be another blow to the Russian economy,” Biden continued.
Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.