Senate Votes to Suspend Normal Trade Relations With Moscow and Ban Russian Gas and Oil

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to strip Moscow of its preferential trade status and to ban the import of Russian energy into the United States, moving to further penalize Russia’s economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The legislation would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods and cut off a significant revenue stream for President Vladimir V. Putin, though experts have said that the oil and gas ban would be largely symbolic. Russian energy represents a small fraction of American imports, and Moscow is already having trouble exporting its oil.

The House is expected to pass the measures later on Thursday, sending them to President Biden’s desk.

The bills came after weeks of partisan deadlock paralyzed legislative action on Ukraine. The House passed similar legislation last month, but the legislation languished as senators bickered over various provisions, especially human rights language that Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, deemed overly broad.

Leery of the prospect of allowing the House-passed legislation to hang in limbo as senators prepared to leave Washington for a planned two-week recess, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Wednesday night that the Senate would pass the legislation just hours before confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

“Putin must absolutely be held accountable for the detestable, despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine,” Mr. Schumer said. “The images we have seen coming out of that country, especially out of the town of Bucha, are just pure evil.” He later called the grisly crimes perpetrated by Russian soldiers “genocide.”

“When we murder wantonly innocent civilians because of who they are, whether it be their religion, their race or their nationality, that is genocide, and Mr. Putin is guilty of it,” Mr. Schumer said.

Still, the difficulty of passing legislation broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats in both chambers to punish Russia — and replicating efforts announced by the White House nearly a month ago — suggested a grim outlook for future attempts by lawmakers to pass any sweeping measures aimed at supporting Ukraine.

Senators passed a bill late Wednesday to resurrect the 1941 Lend-Lease Act, last used in World War II to aid allies fighting Germany, to lend military equipment to Ukraine. It was passed after 9 p.m. without warning or debate, using a mechanism that automatically approves the legislation unless a senator present on the floor objects, suggesting that lawmakers were wary that one or more of their colleagues would move to thwart the bill’s passage.

The trade and the gas and oil bills passed Thursday will be the first stand-alone legislation Congress has sent to Mr. Biden’s desk in the more than 40 days since Russia’s invasion in an attempt to punish Moscow or aid Kyiv. The most significant bill Congress has passed to help Ukraine was the $13.6 billion package of military and humanitarian aid passed last month, which was tied to a must-pass federal spending bill.

The move by the United States to strip Russia of its preferential trade status — known as “permanent normal trade relations” — carries symbolic weight, but trade experts have said that it will have a limited economic effect compared with other sanctions that have been imposed. Revoking that status has a much larger effect for the European Union, Russia’s largest trading partner.


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