Amid Objections, U.S. House Considers Banning Russian Oil

March 9, 2022 Topic: Oil Region: Russia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: OilRussiaSanctionsU.S. ImportsRussia-Ukraine War

Amid Objections, U.S. House Considers Banning Russian Oil

In past weeks, the Biden administration has been reluctant to implement widespread sanctions against Russian oil.

The House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday on whether to ban U.S. imports of oil and other energy products from Russia, among other sanctions, in retaliation for Moscow’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had initially scheduled the vote on the bill for Tuesday, but it was delayed to Wednesday after an objection from House Republicans, who argued that the bill was too limited in scope.

If passed, the bill would ban energy imports from Russia and would review Russia’s status in the World Trade Organization, an international commercial body created to lower global trade barriers. Pelosi also indicated on Tuesday that the bill would update the Magnitsky Act of 2012, making it easier for the United States to impose sanctions against Russian officials for human rights violations. The full text of the bill has not yet been released to the public.

Republicans objected to the bill because it did not contain a provision restricting normal trade relations between the United States, Russia, and Belarus. House Democrats countered that breaking trade relations with Russia could have detrimental effects on U.S. allies in Europe and that further consultations were needed between allies before the House could take such a drastic step.

“The president rightfully wants to talk to our allies about that action,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, according to Politico.

The effort to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion, which U.S. observers generally regard as an unprovoked act of aggression by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has drawn overwhelming bipartisan support, both in Washington and across the country.

In past weeks, the Biden administration has been reluctant to implement widespread sanctions against Russian oil, fearingthat price increases at the pump could lead to a loss of political support. However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed that more than 60 percent of Americans would voluntarily pay more for gasoline if it meant aiding Ukraine against Russia.

If Pelosi’s bill passes the House, it must be approved by the Senate before entering into law. A similar bill banning Russian oil has been proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Russian oil imports accounted for roughly 3 percent of U.S. consumption in 2021. Europe is far more dependent on Russian energy, consuming around 50 percent of the country’s exports. Several European leaders, particularly German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have ruled out a total embargo on Russian oil for fear of damaging their economies.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.

Image: Reuters