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Congress votes to strip Russia's trade status, ban its oil

A pair of bills to revoke permanent normal trade relations with Russia and ban its energy imports won overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in both chambers passed legislation Thursday that would suspend normal trade relations between Washington and Moscow and ban Russian oil imports.

Votes on the two bills were unanimous in the Senate, with all 100 senators supporting the measures. There was minimal opposition in the House. Both bills now head to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

Negotiators had worked for several weeks on the two pieces of legislation, but some senators had delayed the process over objections to certain provisions. Those proposals included sanctions on Russian gold, a lend-lease agreement with Ukraine to provide the country with military aid and a broadening of sanctions of human rights abusers under the Magnitsky Act.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday on the Senate floor that "it's a big, big deal that we are finally getting them done."

"Putin must absolutely be held accountable for the detestable, despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine: the images we have seen coming out of that country, especially out of the town of Bucha, are just pure evil," he said.

"This is genocide," he added.

The legislative action in the Senate came about four weeks after Biden called for ending normal trade relations with Russia. It also came a month after the House first passed a bill banning Russian oil imports, a move Congress pursued before Biden committed to supporting a ban.

The Biden administration began implementing energy-related sanctions last month.

The House previously passed bills for both Russia's trade status and its oil imports, but they needed to vote on the Senate versions Thursday.

The oil ban bill was opposed by seven House Republicans and two Democrats: Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The only three votes against the trade bill came GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

Suspending trade relations would end Russia’s status as a “most favored nation,” a World Trade Organization designation imposed by members that treats trading partners equally with regard to tariffs. In the U.S., that status is known as permanent normal trade relations, and removing the designation would pave the way to increase tariffs on imports from Russia.

The oil ban bill would codify the executive action Biden took in March to block Russian oil, liquified natural gas and coal from entering the U.S.