- The House voted to ban on Russian oil a day after the Biden administration enacted its own ban.
- The blowout vote came after the White House tried to squash the bill in order to let Biden claim a win.
- It remains unclear whether the Senate will also pass a Russian oil ban.
The House approved a sweeping ban on Russian oil and energy imports late Wednesday, a day after President Joe Biden enacted his own ban via executive order.
Unlike other bills on the House floor, it was a blowout bipartisan vote. The House approved the measure in a 414-17 vote, reflecting the common desire on both sides of the aisle to punish the Kremlin in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
The 17-page House bill would impose a ban on Russian oil and natural gas, a sanction that Biden rolled out on Tuesday. But it goes further in two ways.
The bill would kickstart a process to suspend Russia from the World Trade Organization and reauthorize the Magnitsky Act, which allows the US government to sanction entities that it deems to be human rights offenders.
It’s the latest economic penalty that Congress wants to impose on Russia in an escalating campaign to devastate its economy and punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the onslaught in Ukraine. The US and its European allies had already hammered the Kremlin with other sanctions, cutting off its access to international cash reserves and penalizing political and business elites with close ties to Putin.
Yet the White House had faced rising bipartisan pressure to impose an energy embargo as Moscow intensified its brutal military campaign by targeting Ukrainian civilians. The Biden administration had been reluctant to further rattle global energy markets, likely leading to even higher gas prices.
Republicans and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee had been drafting legislation through the weekend to block the importation of Russian energy supplies. But the White House intervened on Monday to try and squash the bill and prevent them from appearing to corner the administration, two congressional aides told Insider.
“They wanted to scoop us,” one of the aides said, adding that the White House had been looped in for days. The aides were granted anonymity to reveal private details about internal discussions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled the vote despite the early White House objections. But it was ensnared in a separate battle to fund the government, briefly stalling its progress.
Republicans went along with it. Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican tax-writer in the House, told reporters he was voting for it “principally because Congress forced the president’s hand” on the oil and gas ban.
Former President Donald Trump has made no secret of his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him a “genius” and “very savvy” recently. But Republican leaders like Kevin McCarthy distanced themselves from the remarks on Wednesday.
Where the House bill goes from here remains uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held off from committing to voting on the measure at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, telling reporters that he would have to see the final text of the bill and would then work with the White House to “find the best way to make sure that the oil import ban is tight and tough.”
Senators from both parties said they believed the White House could go further than it already has to further isolate Russia from the global economy, such as by choking off its trade.
“Russia’s actions do not warrant them continuing to reap the fruits of the international trade system,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon told reporters on Tuesday.