“We’ve been talking about doing the Russian ban for a while. And we’re so pleased that the president has done that,” said Pelosi, who spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for 45 minutes earlier Wednesday. “But you’re here in a legislature. This is a democratic process where people weigh the equities, express their views.”
The House overwhelmingly passed the Russian oil ban by a vote of 414-17.
Zelenskyy had been pushing Western nations to stop importing Russian oil — including during a Zoom call with U.S. lawmakers over the weekend in which the Ukrainian leader grew emotional speaking about Russia’s assaults on his country.
“Putin is using weapons prohibited in the Geneva Conventions, including cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, which cause severe suffering,” Pelosi said Wednesday.
Bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill prompted the White House to reverse course on its initial reluctance to ban Russian oil. Until last week, congressional leaders were largely deferential to the sanctions Biden had already imposed, which have effectively crippled Russia’s economy.
Although the move cuts off a significant revenue stream for Putin, White House officials feared an embargo would hike gas prices even further by reducing supply. The U.S. gets 3 percent of its crude oil from Russia.
Republicans, who have criticized Biden’s handling of Russia overall but tempered that somewhat in terms of his response to the invasion of Ukraine, embraced the ban but said the U.S. should backfill its oil supply by ramping up domestic oil and gas production — which the Biden administration has limited.
The final House bill was stripped down after Biden aides objected to provisions intended to restrict U.S. trade with Russia.
On Monday, bipartisan negotiators in both chambers announced an agreement on language aimed at suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and directing U.S. trade officials to seek Russia’s removal from the World Trade Organization. But Democratic leaders abandoned those provisions amid White House resistance.
The bill does, however, mandate a review of Russia’s participation in the WTO. It also enhances human-rights sanctions against Moscow.
U.S. action to punish Russia and support Ukraine won’t stop with Wednesday’s vote, though. Congress is slated to send a government funding bill to Biden’s desk this week that includes nearly $14 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine, including military assistance and humanitarian relief.